Tears, heart, resilience, brilliance: Federer signs off his professional career in style

The 41-year-old Swiss was understandably emotional as he waved goodbye to professional tennis with one last hurrah at the Laver Cup

Roger Federer, Laver Cup 2022 Roger Federer, Laver Cup 2022 | © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

There were tears, of course there were. For one last time, Roger Federer laced up his shoes, stepped out onto the match court and enjoyed the warmth and love of an adoring crowd.

That his last match – a doubles tilt with Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup – ended in defeat, didn’t matter in the slightest. The debate about who is the greatest of all time will go on, but for everyone inside London’s O2 on Friday, Federer is the man and he got the celebration he wanted and he deserved.

There was laughter, incredible shot-making, resilience, heart and even though Federer and Nadal, his oldest adversary and a long-time friend, could not get the better of Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, he goes out in the same style he played the game, as a winner.

“It was a wonderful day,” Federer told the crowd. “I told the guys, I’m happy, I’m not sad. It felt great to be out there one more time. It feels like a celebration to me. It’s exactly what I’d hoped for, so thank you.”

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Laver Cup 2022 | © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Federer cheered as if it was the last time, which of course it was

Everything Federer did on Friday evening, whether it was walking on the court in the first place, to landing unreturnable serves or picking off volleys at the net, was cheered as if it was the last time, which of course it was.

His serve, perhaps the most underrated stroke in men’s tennis in the last 25 years, was as good as ever, and if his movement at the net was a little stuttered at times, Nadal made up for it with his willingness to run down anything, whip a ferocious forehand or finish off the points with a smash.

At the changes of ends, Federer and the rest of Team Europe watched tributes to the Swiss on the big screen; at others, they laughed as a man took off about 10 shirts while dancing to Billy Idol’s 80s megahit, ‘Mony Mony.’

There were plenty of light-hearted moments for Federer and there were lots of smiles during the contest with the Americans, but Federer and his longtime rival Nadal were also dead set on getting the win.

Federer embraced by rivals and team mates

When they lost the second-set tiebreak, Nadal was more vocal than anyone, while Federer adjusted his headband and listened to Stefanos Tsitsipas giving him advice on where to serve to Sock.

The pair came agonisingly close to winning, holding match point with Federer serving at 9-8 only to be denied by some brilliance from Sock and Tiafoe, who clearly hadn’t read the script.

But the end, when it came, was just the beginning. As Federer was embraced, one by one, by rivals who had become team-mates, the tears flowed. From Federer himself, from Nadal, from Andy Murray, from almost everyone.

“Thank you to Mirka,” Federer said, through tears, to his wife, standing in the crowd. “She could have stopped me years ago, but she always encouraged me. Thank you.”

As British pop singer Ellie Goulding gave a searing rendition of ‘Still falling for you’, Federer sat next to Nadal, the pair spilling prodigious tears as the emotions spilled over.

Others may win more, but there will probably never be another player who plays the game the way Federer did, with seemingly effortless style, grace and elegance, brutal power and with the heart of a lion.

He will be missed.

At least we had him one more time.

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