As the world watched, the curtain fell Roger Federer‘s historic career on Friday night in the Laver Cup. In front of an electrifying crowd, the Swiss maestro teamed up with a longtime rival and friend Rafael Nadal to get his last shots fired at The O2 in London.
The former world No. 1 looked sharp around the net, firing his seemingly effortless groundstrokes through the court during the two-hour and 16-minute duel. Ultimately, however, he was able to take the 1,382nd place. career win in singles and doubles and fell to Team World Pair jack sock and Frances Tiafoe.
The Americans rebounded from a set down to defeat their legendary opponents 4-6, 7-6(2), 11-9 and level Laver Cup at 2-2 after the first day.
“We’re going to get through this somehow, aren’t we? Right?” Federer said in a cracked voice during his interview on the pitch. “I’m happy, I’m not sad. It feels great to be here and I enjoyed tying my shoes again. Everything was the last time. The game was great, I couldn’t be happier. It was wonderful. “
Federer was overcome with emotion immediately after the game, hugging teammate Nadal and waving to the crowd as he embraced the roar of his fans for the last time.
The Swiss star then went to his chair for the last time, where he stood alongside his team-mates and greeted the sold-out crowd. Federer couldn’t contain his emotions as he spoke on the arena square during his interview and burst into tears as he shared final words of thanks and gratitude to his family, team and supporters.
“Playing on the same team with Rafa and having the guys, all here, all the legends – Rocket, Edberg, Stefan – thank you,” said Federer, who was joined on the pitch by his parents, his wife Mirka and their four children. “I didn’t want it to feel lonely out there. It felt lonely for a second when they told me to go out…but to say goodbye to a team always made me feel like a team player at heart. Singles doesn’t really do that, but I had a team that traveled the world with me. It’s been fantastic with them, so thanks to everyone who has made it work for so many years.
“And then of course to be on the team with Andy, Thomas, Novak, Matteo, Cam, Stefanos, Rafa and Casper… and also the other team, you guys are amazing. It was a pleasure playing all those Laver Cups.
“It feels like a celebration to me. I wanted to end up feeling that way and that’s exactly what I was hoping for, so thank you.”
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Courage and grace by Roger Federer
The former world No. 1 is leaving the sport as a legend. He won 103 tour-level titles and spent 310 weeks at No. 1 on the Pepperstone ATP rankings. Federer first faced Nadal in 2004 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami. Over the years, they have played each other a further 39 times and have faced off in 24 finals.
After forging a special relationship, it was fitting for Federer to end his career alongside the Spaniard with the ‘Big Four’ stars Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray cheering from the sidelines. His parents, wife Mirka and children also watched on the sidelines.
“We have to go there?” he joked when asked about his family. “I’ve done well so far. At least I can speak. In my vision, I could never speak, so I’m much better.
“My wife was so supportive. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago, but she didn’t. She kept me going and allowed me to play. It is amazing. Thanks.”
In an entertaining match, Federer and Nadal were in high spirits throughout, smiling and entertaining the crowd with their dynamic shots. In the third game of the first set, the Swiss star shot through a gap in the net with a forehand. Despite Team World being awarded the point, the Swiss-Spanish tandem shared a smile as they headed back to the baseline.
As the crowd roared at them, Federer and Nadal played with freedom, matching the intensity of the Americans in a series of all-court bouts to win the first set. After Sock and Tiafoe won the second set, a match tiebreak remained to decide Federer’s final clash. While the crowd was on their feet, it was the Americans who found a way, saving a match point at 8/9 to prevent a thrilling tie break.