By Marvin A Azrak
The Swiss Maestro portrayed excellence and eloquence from the beginning to the end of his 24-year venture on the tennis court, which will officially conclude next week. Roger Federer announced Thursday that he plans to retire from tennis following the upcoming Laver Cup tournament In London. The decorated icon paced the sport for decades and, through his sorcery, won a record 103 ATP titles, six end-of-year ATP finals, was the oldest and longest world NO1 and amassed a staggering 20 grand slam singles titles. In a statement across his social media channels, Federer cited injuries and challenges that kept him out of competition since July 2021. “Of all the gifts that tennis has given me over the years, the greatest, without a doubt, has been the people I’ve met along the way: my friends, my competitors, and most of all, the fans who give the sport its life. I want to share some news with you,” Roger said. I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear. I am 41 years old, and I have played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it’s time to end my competitive career.
“The Laver Cup, next week in London, will be my final ATP event. I will play more tennis in the future, of course, but just not in Grand Slams or on tour.” Federer won his first grand slam in 2003 at Wimbledon, the first of five straight, which he also did at the US Open from 2004-2008. “This is a bittersweet decision because I will miss everything the tour has given me. But at the same time, there is so much to celebrate,” Federer said. “I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible.” The last 24 years on tour have been an incredible adventure. While it sometimes felt like it went by in 24 hours, it has also been so deep and magical that it seems as if I’ve already lived a lifetime. I have had the immense fortune to play in front of you in over 40 countries. I have laughed and cried, felt joy and pain, and most of all, I have felt incredibly alive.”
Perhaps the most joyous of victories was in 2009, on the red clay in Paris. Roger entered that fortnight with 13 grand slam titles, just one behind the all-time leader in Pete Sampras, yet hadn’t emerged victorious in Roland Garros, where Rafael Nadal had proven to be his kryptonite, thwarting him in several finals. But on May 30th, Robin Soderling produced a monumental fourth-round upset, unseating the five-time reigning champion, 6-2, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, en route to a finals appearance. Awaiting him was Federer, who, if not for a stroke of luck, wouldn’t have been there. Roger looked cooked down two sets and serving at 3-4, 30-40 against Tommy Hass.
I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world.
It’s been a pleasure, an honor, and a privilege to share these years with you.” “We will have many more moments to share in the future; we know there are still lots of things to do together.
I wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, and your family, and enjoy what’s ahead of you. I’ll see you in London.”
Novak, meanwhile, had this to say:”
Roger, it’s hard to see this day and put together all we’ve shared in this sport. Over a decade of incredible moments and battles to think back on. Your career has set the tone for what it means to achieve excellence and lead with integrity and poise.
“It’s an honor to know you on and off the court and for many more years. I know this new chapter will hold amazing things for you, Mirka, the kids, all your loved ones, and Roger fans still have much to look forward to.” “From our family to yours, we wish you much joy, health, and prosperity in the future. Looking forward to celebrating your achievements and seeing you in London.”
Federer’s retirement comes on the heels of Serena Williams’s last act at the US Open two weeks ago, as the two legends who ruled the last two decades depart tennis the same year they entered. “I wanted to find the perfect way to say this, as you so eloquently put this game to rest – perfectly done, just like your career.
“I have always looked up to you and admired you. Our paths were always so similar, so much the same. You inspired millions and millions of people – including me – and we will never forget.
“I applaud you and look forward to all you do in the future. Welcome to the retirement club. And thank you for being you.”
Roger showed endurance where others faltered. At age 36, he returned to the court after a six-month absence to claim the 2017 Australian Open title, toppling Nadal in five enthralling sets, with the quality of tennis elevated with every passing shot and forehand winner. The victory was the catalyst to a resurgent season which saw him recapture the #1 ranking and win Wimbledon title #8 becoming the first to 20 grand slams in 2018, also consisting of 6 Australian Opens, the lone French Open, and five US Open championships.
It’s unclear what Federer will do next though he has received offers from current players to become a coach. If he were to pursue that role, he would look skyward at new world #1 Carlos Alcaraz, a 19-year-old newly minted US Open champion; who took to Twitter expressing his disappointment in never facing his idol on tour. “Roger has been one of my idols and a source of inspiration! Thank you for everything you have done for our sport! I still want to play with you! I wish you all the luck in the world for what comes next! “
But if his parting words from his announcement, we’ll still be seeing him around, “Tennis, I love you, and I will never leave you.”