Roger Federer is known for his elegant style of play, for his longevity, for his 20 Grand Slam titles – and for his occasional tears in his most emotional post-match moments, whether after victory or defeat.
There was nothing of that kind of sadness on Wednesday, just smiles and a few laughs at his own jokes, as Federer appeared at a press conference to discuss his retirement from professional tennis at 41 after a series knee operations. He will close his career with a doubles match at the Laver Cup on Friday – possibly alongside longtime rival Rafael Nadal.
Federer said he is now at peace with the decision to leave, which comes weeks after Serena Williams played what is expected to be her last match at the US Open, and he wants this farewell to be a celebration.
“I really don’t want it to be a funeral,” Federer said. “I want it to be really happy and powerful and in party mode.” Dressed in a blue blazer with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows and a white polo shirt, Federer answered questions for about half an hour in the arena that will host the team competition founded by his management company.
“I’m nervous about going in because I haven’t played for so long,” he said. “Hopefully I can be a bit competitive.” Federer, who announced via social media last week that he would be retiring after the Laver Cup, said it took him some time to get used to the idea of stepping away from competition . But it was something he realized he had to do after suffering setbacks in July during rehabilitation after his third right knee surgery in about a year and a half.
“You try to take it to the next level in training, and I could feel it getting difficult. … Then I guess I also got more tired, because you had to put more effort into it to be able to kind of believe it was going to backfire. You start getting too pessimistic. Then I got a scan as well, which wasn’t what I wanted,” Federer explained. “At some point you sit down and say to yourself, OK, we’re at an intersection here, at a crossroads, and you have to take a turn. Where is this?’ I wasn’t willing to go the ‘let’s risk it all’ way. I’m not ready for that. I always said that was never my goal. And the hard part came when he knew that he had to stop.
“You’re sad,” Federer said, “the moment you realize, OK, it’s over. will go down in the books as the last singles match of a stellar career that began in the 1990s and included 103 tournament titles, a Davis Cup championship for Switzerland, Olympic medals and hundreds of weeks at No. of the ATP ranking.
In his farewell message online last week, Federer called the retirement a “bittersweet decision”. He was asked on Wednesday which aspect was the most bitter and which was the sweetest.
“The bitterness: you always want to play forever,” he said. “I love being on the court. I love playing against guys. I love traveling. … Everything was perfect. I love my career from every angle. And then he added: ‘The hardest part sweet was that i know everyone has to do it at some point everyone has to quit the game it’s been a great, great journey for that i’m really grateful he will play doubles for team europe against team World on the first day of the event and then give way to Wimbledon 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini in singles this weekend.This plan was managed by the ATP and the two team captains, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg , said Federer.
As for her doubles partner for the last hurray? Federer definitely wouldn’t say – he said it was up to Borg – but the not-so-hidden secret is that it should be Nadal, who holds the men’s record of 22 major championships.
In February, when news broke that Federer would be in London this week, he said Nadal had messaged him last year suggesting he play doubles together again. They teamed up to win a doubles match in the inaugural Laver Cup in 2017.
“If we are able to share the court once again in doubles,” Nadal said in February, “then it would be a really special experience for both of us at this stage of our careers.” While other contemporaries of Federer and sports stars make the European squad, such as 21-time Slam champion Novak Djokovic and three-time major winner Andy Murray, Federer’s match against Nadal will go down in history. as one of the biggest rivalries in the world. tennis or any other sport.
They have faced each other 40 times in all (Nadal has won 26), with 14 Grand Slam clashes (Nadal has won 10). Nadal emerged victorious in their classic Wimbledon final in 2008, considered by some to be the greatest match in history; Federer won his last encounter, in the 2019 semi-final at the All England Club.
“It could be quite, I don’t know, a unique situation, if it were to happen,” Federer said of the double. “For us too, to go through a career that we both had and come out the other side and be able to have a great relationship, I think, is maybe a great message, not just for tennis but sport and can -be even beyond that.” As for his future? The father of two sets of twins – girls 13, boys 8 – wouldn’t say exactly what he has planned other than a holiday, but he said that he would stay connected to tennis in some way.
Recalling how Borg stayed away from the sport for years after his retirement, Federer sought to reassure his own fans, saying, “I won’t be a ghost.”
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