Tennis: Smiles and mixed tears to say goodbye to “King” Federer
An exciting match, a knowing smile with his doubles partner Rafael Nadal, but also tears after the match point, which ended 25 years of an admirable career, Roger Federer said goodbye to tennis on the night from Friday to Saturday.
With 103 titles on the ATP Tour, including 20 Grand Slams, 310 weeks at the top of the rankings, including 237 consecutive weeks during his longest reign, Federer’s imprint on tennis is nowhere near fading.
When he last stepped onto the court as a professional tennis player, the O2 Arena and its 17,000 spectators erupted in excitement. He left the country to applause and tears – his own, those of his family, friends and admirers.
“These are faces and emotions that I will remember in a few years,” he thought of that evening, and the Swiss also confided after the game.
After struggling with his right knee for too long and confronting the lack of sufficient progress identified by a scanner a few weeks ago, he finally announced his irrevocable departure eight days ago.
He had chosen the Laver Cup, a team match between Europe and the rest of the world that he had helped create, in London, a city that had seen some of his greatest exploits at Wimbledon or at the Masters, to inspire his adoration.
“I thought about it a month ago, but I just thought if I had to do it, it would be here,” he explained.
After almost a year and a half without a game, he was “satisfied” with a double, a practice where his quality of service, touch and eye still work wonders.
It also allowed him to surround himself with a team, and what a team! At his side he had Nadal, his one-night partner, but also Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, two players of his generation that he saw progressing until they challenged his superiority and embodied him as well as the next generation Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini, who will replace him for the rest of the Laver Cup.
– “Just a moment in my life” –
The presence on the bench of Bjorn Borg as captain, as well as that of John McEnroe on the Rest of the World and Rod Laver, the first player to win four Grand Slams twice in a calendar year and to whom the competition pays tribute, worked not out of place at this tennis festival.
The Laver Cup formula, which allows the entire team to contact players when changing sides to offer advice or encouragement, created a very friendly atmosphere.
And if the match itself seemed like a show at times, it would almost have been a crime of lese majeste not to play it thoroughly.
“We’ll seize the moment, but we won’t hold back, sorry Roger,” Sock warned before the game.
Despite some restrictions, Federer reacted. With a winning forehand volley, he offered his side the first set ball, which he won on one of his passes that Sock couldn’t return (6-4), to the delight of the crowd.
“Honestly I was surprised to be able to play so well tonight and I just enjoyed it. It was great from start to finish,” he said.
The second set, lost in the tiebreak (7-2), offered a dramatic epilogue with an intense crossover during the superfinal tiebreak. Federer even served up for the match 9-8, but in the end it was the Americans who spoiled the party a bit, eventually winning 4-6 7-6 (7/2) 11-9.
Given the incredible career he will have had and the importance he will have had in the development of this sport in the 21st century, this defeat will be an adventure and he himself said he was ready for his new life, which began on the London night.
“The part that scared me the most was speaking on the mic (…) because I know how impossible I become when I get too emotional,” he confessed.
“But I managed to remember (…) how wonderful the day was, that it wasn’t the end, that life goes on, I’m healthy, happy, everything is fine, it’s just a moment in my life.” , he added modestly, given what has been a historic day for tennis and even sports.
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