Roger Federer's tennis swan song was a fitting farewell for the sport's classiest ever player
- Roger Federer said farewell to tennis at the Laver Cup on Friday.
- The event was a fitting farewell for tennis' classiest ever player.
LONDON – Roger Federer said farewell to tennis with a defeat in the final match of his career on Friday night at the Laver Cup.
This Swiss icon, who announced his imminent retirement from tennis only last week, teamed up with Rafael Nadal to face American duo Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe in the tournament's first doubles match.
Sock and Tiafoe won 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 11-9.
Despite the defeat, the night – and Federer's career – ended in tears of joy for the 41-year-old.
"It's been a wonderful day," said Federer in his on-court interview, shortly after a video of his career highlights had played on the screens at the O2 Arena. "I told the guys I'm happy, not sad. It feels great to be here."
He added: "It does feel like a celebration to me. I wanted to feel like this at the end and it is exactly what I hoped for so thank you.
"It has been a perfect journey and I would do it all over again."
—Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) September 23, 2022
Federer hadn't played a competitive tennis match in over a year before Friday. The last time he took to the court was at Wimbledon 2021, after which he had a third surgery on his right knee. He had two surgeries on the same knee the previous year.
When announcing his retirement, Federer said he had decided to listen to his "body's message."
Though he showed signs of rust against Sock and Tiafoe, the veteran star still wowed the crowd with his graceful nonchalance and a highlight reel of his trademark shots.
One particular moment of magic came in the first set when he squeezed a shot through the tiny gap between the net and the net post.
"I enjoyed tying my shoelaces one more time, everything was the last time," said Federer. "I didn't feel the stress so much even though I did think maybe something was going to go, like a calf or a back, but the match was great, I made it through and I couldn't be happier."
The best of friends
For much of Federer's career, Nadal was his greatest rival.
Over the years, the pair have met 40 times on the court, with Federer coming out on top 16 times and Nadal 24. Ten of those meetings have been in Grand Slam finals, where Nadal again came out on top more often than not, winning six to Federer's three.
Between 2005 and 2010, during the peak era of their combined dominance of the men's game, they won 21 of 24 possible Grand Slams.
However, as well as being great rivals, Federer and Nadal have also been equally great friends. The pair often have dinner together and they know each other's families.
Closing out his career alongside the man who has been alongside him – whether friend or foe – at every step, Federer described as "amazing."
A fitting farewell
Federer has oozed class both on and off the tennis court during his career.
Not only has he won the admiration of tennis fans with his elegant and effortless style of play, he's also captured hearts with his humble and gentle demeanor.
"Roger Federer is a living legend," John McEnroe said to reporters earlier this year. "He's the epitome of what you would want your kid to be when they grow up.
"He is the most beautiful player I've ever watched play."
Andy Roddick once said of Federer: "He's a real person. He's not an enigma. Off the court, he's not trying to be somebody. If you met him at McDonald's and you didn't know who he was, you would have no idea that he's one of the best athletes in the world."
Friday – though not the Grand Slam-winning send-off Federer may have dreamed of – proved to be a fitting farewell.
On a day that he could have so easily and understandably become wrapped up in his own world, Federer remained as humble as ever.
Before his own match, he watched teammate Andy Murray take on Alex de Minaur from his locker room, cheering the Scotsman's every winner and holding his head in his hands at his every mistake.
When he finally took to the court himself at just before 10 p.m., he greeted the rapturous applause from the crowd with a typically modest smile and wave.
After his last dance was over, he thanked his Team Europe teammates, his opponents, his family, and his fans.
"Everyone's here, the boys and girls," he said. "My wife has been so supportive. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn't. She kept me going and allowed me to play, so it's amazing, thank you.
"It's funny, we always blame my mum for everything because without her I wouldn't be here of course. Thanks to my parents, they've been amazing.
"Just everybody, there are too many people to thank. It's been incredible."
A sporting legend and a gentleman in equal measure – tennis will never be the same without Roger Federer.
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