“You have to wonder if it’s from the same planet.”
For more than 20 years, not only one of the greatest tennis players in history – Novak Djokovic – has asked himself this question about Roger Federer.
The Swiss great – who announced last night that he will retire later this month – plays with a grace to perfection like no one before him.
He is the best tennis player in the world, says Andre Agassi – who dominated the tennis generation before Federer alongside Pete Sampras – after a match between them.
Another may have won more titles (never mind his staggering 103, 20 of them Grand Slams), but for many, the once grumpy youngster, banished to cleaning toilets for a costly racquet throw, is the sport’s truest icon.
It took him two years to overcome his violent reactions and pettiness, in his own words. But from then on, he is unfazed and even the behavior of the most challenging players on the court tour against him (Nick Kyrios, for example) manages to get the maximum smile out of him.
“It took me about two years to discover this fire and ice – Federer shared on this occasion in 2018 – The fire to win and the ice coolness to endure losses and bad mistakes. Then my career took off.” In fact, since then, his career has taken off into another dimension.
“Tennis has been more generous to me than I could have ever dreamed of,” Roger, 41, said in his retirement speech, sharing the reason for his decision:
“The last three years have put me through the challenges of injuries and surgeries. I’ve been working hard to get back into competitive shape, but I know my body’s capacity and limitations, and his message was clear.
I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 games in 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I could have ever dreamed and now I have to recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.
The Laver Cup in London next week will be my last appearance in an ATP tournament (The Association of Professional Tennis Players)”.
He won’t leave tennis behind, but he won’t compete professionally either, and describes his decision as “bittersweet.”
“I will miss everything the tour has given me but, at the same time, I have so much to celebrate. I consider myself one of the luckiest people on earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis and I did it at a level which I never imagined, and for a longer time than I thought possible.’
Federer thanked his wife Mirka (also a former tennis player) “for every minute she spent with me”, for watching “countless matches even when she was eight months pregnant” and for putting up with the “silly” side of his behavior towards his team for over 20 years. He also thanked their four children – two girls and two boys, sets of twins – for always being willing to explore new places around the world where tournaments took the family and creating lifelong memories for their parents. “To see my family supporting me from the stands is something I will cherish forever,” Federer says in the video, which has been viewed over a million times since last night alone.
The Swiss from Basel thanked his parents and sister, his former coaches, the Swiss Tennis Federation, his team. He does not miss his rivals on the court either, the clashes with which he calls “epic matches” that have brought tennis to a higher level. Last night, many of them also thanked him, and the wave of reactions to his announced retirement from current and former tennis players, from commentators and admirers, from the tournaments he conquered, numbered in the thousands.
“Dear Roger, my friend and rival – Rafael Nadal addresses him. – I wish this day had never come. It is a sad day for me personally and for sport around the world. It was a pleasure, but also an honor, and a privilege to share all these years with you, to experience so many amazing moments on and off the court.
We will have many more moments together in the future to share, there are still many things to do together, we know it.
For now, I sincerely wish you all the happiness with your wife Mirka, with your children and your family, enjoy what is in front of you! See you in London at Laver Cup!
One of the greatest tennis matches in history was between the two, in 2008. Nadal won, and months later Federer broke down in tears when asked a question that brought him back to that moment, saying, “God, it’s killing me.”
The full record of the match:
From next month, only two of the three giants of modern tennis – Rafa (36) and Novak Djokovic (35) – will continue to compete on the professional tour. The third – who won the hearts of thousands and thousands of fans – thanked them last night and shared what their support meant to him:
“Above all, I have to give special thanks to my amazing fans. You will never know how much strength and faith you instilled in me. … Without you, these successes would be lonely.”
Federer calls his 24 years in tennis an “adventure” that passed as if in 24 hours.
“I laughed, I cried, I felt joy and pain, but above all I felt incredibly alive,” he says, going back to his first steps in tennis.
“When my love for tennis was ignited, I was a child serving the balls in my hometown of Basel. I watched the players with the feeling that this was a miracle. They were like giants to me and I began to dream. My dreams made me work harder and I started to believe in myself. Some successes gave me confidence and I set off on the most incredible journey that has led me to this day,” Federer said at the end of his address, thanking “from the bottom of his heart” everyone who helped the little kid’s dreams – ball feeder – come true.
Early Career – Wimbledon Youth Final:
Finally, he turns to tennis with the words: “I love you and I will never leave you.”
To my tennis family and beyond,
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) September 15, 2022
Highlights of Federer’s matches published on his 41st birthday – 08/08/2022 – by Tennis TV:
The Eurosport selection: