uAt 12:25 a.m. local time on Saturday night, one of the greatest sports careers came to an end. With tears in his eyes, Roger Federer said goodbye to tennis in London. After more than 100 tournament wins and a total of 20 Grand Slam titles, the 41-year-old Swiss has ended his impressive career.
Federer was not granted a final victory in his last official match. At the Laver Cup in London, Federer lost alongside the Spaniard Rafael Nadal to the US duo Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe in the tie-break match 6: 4, 6: 7 (2: 7), 9:11. After that, Federer hugged all his teammates and let the spectators celebrate him. “Roger, Roger” chants echoed through The O2 in London.
A perfect trip
“It felt like a celebration and that was exactly what I wanted,” said Federer in the subsequent interview on the pitch. Again and again he had to interrupt the conversation with the American ex-professional Jim Courier because he had to cry. “It was a perfect trip. I would do it again the same way.”
Federer announced last week that he would end his career after the team competition. The Swiss had to have a total of three knee operations. He played his last game on the ATP tour at Wimbledon over a year ago.
The Laver Cup pits a European team against a selection of players from the rest of the world from Friday to Sunday. After the first day it is 2:2.
Federer’s last appearance was significantly delayed because Brit Andy Murray and Alex de Minaur from Australia had faced each other for almost two and a half hours. Both showed a duel at a high level – but hardly anyone in the arena and in front of the televisions around the world was interested. Everyone was just waiting for the moment when Federer would step onto a tennis court for the last time for an official match.
At 10:03 p.m. local time, the time had finally come. To the deafening cheers of the fans, Federer entered the arena alongside his long-time rival and now-boyfriend Nadal. “After all the great things we shared together on and off the pitch, being part of this historic moment is something I will never forget,” Nadal said before the game. Federer had wanted the Spaniard as a doubles partner in his last match.
And the two superstars, who have won 42 Grand Slam titles together, thrilled the audience from the start. Federer and Nadal kept joking together, the rest of the Europe team around Novak Djokovic was also in a good mood. And in terms of sport, too, Federer kept flashing that he hadn’t forgotten how to play tennis at the age of 41 and after knee operations.
Before the game, Federer could see the tension. The longtime number one tried again and again to create a relaxed atmosphere with jokes. But even on the way to the arena, which Federer shared live with his fans in an Instagram video, the special feature of the moment was noticeable to the Swiss maestro. “I’ve done it 1000 times, but it feels different,” said Federer.
On the pitch, however, the 20-time Grand Slam champion largely had his nerves under control and found the right mix of relaxed and serious. But it wasn’t enough for a final victory.
Shortly before Federer’s last match, a climate activist caused a stir with a fire and put himself in great danger. During the second match of the opening day between Stefano Tsitsipas (Greece) and Diego Schwartzman (Argentina), a young man ran onto the pitch, sat down and lit a fire.
He briefly set his right arm on fire. Security forces put out the small fire and carried the activist, who was wearing a t-shirt that read “No British private jets” on it, out of the concourse.