Image Source: Bloomberg
Although Roger Federer lost his final match on Friday, the five-minute standing ovation was evidence of his lasting contribution to tennis.
Federer broke down in tears due to the audience’s adoration, which seemed to surround him.
“I’m glad, I’m not sad,” he remarked following the Laver Cup match, in which he and longtime friend and rival Rafael Nadal lost to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe 6-4 6-7 9-11.
I took pleasure in lacing my shoes one last time. After that, everything was as it was previously.
This was Federer’s final match of a competitive career that spanned 24 years and included more than 1,500 matches, 103 singles victories, and 20 grand slams.
The news of Federer’s retirement added some much-needed credibility to this past weekend’s play, which has previously felt like little more than a three-day exhibition match between teams from Europe and the rest of the world since its debut in 2017.
Although the competition, consisting of nine head-to-head singles matches and three doubles matches, may have previously attracted only little global attention, this year’s edition has certainly grown to be one of the most important tennis tournaments.
This was largely because it was Federer’s final match, but it also gave tennis fans something they hadn’t seen in a long time: Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray were all in good shape and competing at the same tournament.
Fans would have undoubtedly felt nostalgic after seeing these four superstars’ social media posts the week before the event. However, as they traveled through London’s monuments, the quartet showed genuine warmth for one another, similar to a bunch of old-school friends who had not seen one another in a while.
Though it’s possible that the 2022 Laver Cup signaled the conclusion of Federer’s lengthy and illustrious career as well as the beginning of the end of tennis’ Golden Age, which also contributed to the sentiments of nostalgia.
With Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray all into their 30s and having missed significant amounts of time due to injury at some point in their careers, the specter of their impending retirements now hangs heavily over the sport.
This quartet of athletes, or “the big 3 plus some clown,” as Murray jokingly referred to them on his own Instagram page, will never again represent the same tournament.
Roger Federer, a legend through and through
It will be debatable where Federer’s on-court accomplishments rank among the greatest in men’s tennis, though he is undoubtedly in the top three. However, there is little doubt that he is the most transcendent tennis player ever to pick up a racket.
No other athlete in the sport has achieved the international acclaim, endorsements, or cultural icon that the dapper Swiss great has, mainly due to the way he played the game.
Federer appeared to float rather than scamper around the court for the majority of his career. His hair flowed and bounced over his headband, and his stunningly beautiful one-handed backhand became possibly the most renowned shot in tennis history.
More importantly, at the height of his abilities, the beauty of his game led to unheard-of success. He was the first player to win more grand slams than Pete Sampras’ previous record of 14, and he was also the first to achieve the historic 20.
Although Nadal and Djokovic have now eclipsed Federer’s record of grand slam victories, their great matches with these two players during Federer’s career have only served to enhance his legacy.
The three matches that came before Federer’s farewell match would have been remarkable on another day – Muray’s match against Alex De Minaur was particularly compelling – but today, they felt like warm-ups for the big event.
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Federer had changed into his kit in the Team Europe dugout by the end of Murray’s match against De Minaur, which the Australian won in a third-set match tie break to earn Team World its first point of the day. This only served to heighten the anticipation in the arena, which had been gradually building.
The fact that Federer was unable to capture the victory ultimately didn’t matter all that much, as the emotion, he displayed throughout his farewell statement even brought his doubles partner to tears as he spoke of the support his family had provided him during his career.