Roger Federer leaned back on a sofa, a relaxing picture in a dark blue pullover, black sweatpants and white sneakers. He just showered and changed after Wednesday’s practice session on the court that will be used for the last game of his career, smiling as he talks about getting into the flow with a racket in hand.
“It was funny, hit on the field – nice lighting, everything nice – how does your level start to go up, you know?” He said in an interview with The Associated Press, after a farewell press conference. “Whereas if you’re playing at home, like just a regular tennis court, things go fast, the lights aren’t great, ads are all around you, and you never get to find that kind of rhythm.”
Is it time to cancel his retirement?
Federer is known for his elegant style of play, his longevity, his 20 Grand Slam titles – and the occasional tears in his most emotional post-match moments, both after victory and defeat.
There was none of that kind of heartbreak on Wednesday, just a few chuckles at his own jokes, as Federer discussed his retirement from professional tennis at age 41 after a series of knee operations. He will wrap up his playing days with a Laver Cup doubles match on Friday – possibly alongside longtime rival Rafael Nadal.
Federer has said he agrees with the decision to leave, which comes just weeks after Serena Williams played what is expected to be her last game at the US Open, and wants that farewell to be a celebration.
“I don’t really want it to be a funeral,” Federer said. “I want him to be really happy and strong and put the party on.”
Wearing a blue jacket with sleeves rolled up at his elbows and a white polo shirt, Federer received questions from various media during the press conference ahead of the team competition established by his management company.
“I’m nervous to get in because I haven’t played in a long time,” he said. “I hope to be somewhat competitive.”
Federer, who announced last week via social media that he would retire after the Laver Cup, said it took a while for him to get used to the idea of walking away from the competition.
But it was something he realized he needed to do after suffering setbacks in July during his rehab from what was his third surgery on his right knee in about a year and a half.
“At some point, you sit down and go, ‘Okay, we’re at an intersection here, at a crossroads, and you have to take a turn. In which direction is it? I wasn’t ready to go into the direction of: ‘Let’s risk it all.’ I’m not ready for that. I’ve always said that was never my goal.
The hardest part came when he knew he needed to stop.
Federer said: “You’re sad the moment you realize, well, that’s the end.”
The final action on his knee came shortly after his quarter-final loss to Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon in July 2021, which will go into the books as the last singles match in a brilliant career that began in the 1990s and included 103 championship titles, the Davis Cup for Switzerland, Olympic medals and hundreds of weeks ranked 1 in the ATP rankings.
In his farewell message online last week, Federer referred to retirement as a “bittersweet decision”.
Wednesday at the press conference, he was asked which side is the most bitter and what is the sweetest.
Bitterness: you always want to play forever, he said. “I love being on the field. I love playing against players. I love traveling…everything was perfect. I love my career from every angle.”
He then added, “The nice part is that I know everyone has to do this at some point; everyone has to leave the game. It’s been a great, great journey. So, I’m really grateful.”
Team Europe doubles will play against the World Team on the first day of the event, then give way to Wimbledon 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini in a singles match over the weekend. Federer said that plan was run by the ATP and both teams, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
“I grew up watching him, rooting for him, trying to learn from him,” Brittney said. “His charisma, and he will miss his class – everything he brought to tennis on and off the court.”
Those sentiments have been echoed by other Laver Cup players, such as 2021 French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas (“My biggest memory of him is watching him lift titles in every Grand Slam he played as a kid”) or the US Open semi-finalist. Francis Tiafoe (“I don’t think we’ll ever see another man like Roger – the way he played, the grace he used, who he is as an individual”).
Hurray last for Fe-dal
As for Federer’s doubles partner for the last solution? Federer didn’t say definitively – he said it was up to Borg – but the not-so-hidden secret is that Nadal, who holds the men’s record for 22 major slams, is expected.
While Federer’s other contemporaries and sports stars are on Team Europe, such as 21-time slam champion Novak Djokovic and three-time main winner Andy Murray, Federer’s match against Nadal will go down in history as among the greatest in tennis or any other sport.
They played each other 40 times (Nadal won 26), with 14 Grand Slam matches (Nadal won 10). Nadal finished first in the 2008 Wimbledon Classic Final, considered by some to be the greatest match in history. Federer won his last match, in the 2019 semi-finals at the All England Club.
“It could be a unique situation, I don’t know, if it happened,” Federer said of my doubles.
As for his future?
father of two sets of twins – 13-year-old daughters; The 8-year-olds wouldn’t say exactly what he planned, other than the vacation, but he said he’d still be in touch with tennis in some capacity.
Recalling the way Borg pulled away from the sport for years after his retirement, Federer sought to reassure his fans by saying, “I won’t be a ghost.”