Tennis legend Roger Federer lost the last match of his career on Saturday at the Laver Cup. For his ‘farewell game’, the Swiss great teamed up with longtime Spanish rival Rafael Nadal in a doubles match against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock at London’s O2 Arena.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, with a knee injury, had not played since the quarter-finals of Wimbledon 2021 and last week announced his retirement at the age of 41.

Federer and Nadal have played 40 times, including nine Grand Slam finals, with Nadal holding a winning record of 24-16, but this time they will be on the same side of the net in the Ryder Cup-style event.

From racket-busting enfant terrible with a bad attitude and ill-advised ponytail to universally respected role model and modern icon, Roger Federer has achieved near-holy status.

More than 19 years after winning his maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, which put him on the path to being acclaimed the greatest player of all time, Federer announced his retirement on Thursday.

He leaves the sport with 20 Grand Slams, including a record eight Wimbledons, 103 titles and more than $130 million in prize money alone, all driven by rare grace, laser-like precision and a signature one-handed backhand. .

Self-confidence was never an issue – who else could have walked onto center court at Wimbledon sporting a bespoke cream blazer with an embroidered crest?

“A religious experience”

The artistry associated with the Swiss has earned him a worldwide legion of fans adorned with “RF” hats and an almost mystical appreciation.

A famous columnist even wrote a gushing article entitled “Federer as a religious experience”.

Federer also held the No. 1 spot in the world for 310 weeks, including 237 consecutive weeks between February 2004 and August 2008.

His net worth was estimated in 2019 at $450 million and the cash register recognition of the Federer brand is such that in 2018 he signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with clothing manufacturer Uniqlo.

He was 36 at the time.

At his peak, Federer left his opponents bamboozled.

“I threw the kitchen sink at him but he went to the bathroom and took his bath,” sighed an exhausted Andy Roddick after losing the Wimbledon final in 2004.

Off the court, however, he is Federer the family man, father of two sets of twins, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva and Leo and Lenny with his wife Mirka, a former player he met at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. .

His path to superstardom wasn’t always so smooth.

As a talented young player, Federer’s temper threatened to stunt his progress.

“I had a hard time coping on the court, trying to behave properly. For me, that was a big deal,” he admitted.

At just 19 years old, Federer beat personal hero Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001.

Twelve months later, however, Federer left Wimbledon in the first round.

It took a personal tragedy for him to press the reset.

Just when he turned 21, his trainer and close friend from his formative years, Peter Carter, was killed in a car accident in South Africa.

From then on, the multilingual Federer was committed to winning in style, no longer being consumed by his inner demons.

big rivals

Born on August 8, 1981 in Basel, to a Swiss father Robert and a South African mother Lynette, Federer started playing tennis at the age of eight.

Turning professional in 1998, he won his first ATP title in Milan in 2001 and has racked up trophies every year except 2016, 2020 – when he only played the Australian Open – and 2021, another shortened season.

His first extended rest, to recover from a knee injury caused by bathing his two daughters, led to a revival in 2017 with a refreshed Federer winning an 18th major at the Australian Open.

It was after his first of five Australian Opens in 2004 that he ranked number one in the world for the first time.

Federer has eight Wimbledons, six Australian Opens, five US Opens and just one Roland Garros.

He won 28 Masters, an Olympic doubles gold in 2008 with close friend Stan Wawrinka and a Davis Cup win for Switzerland in 2014.

If he hadn’t competed in the same era as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, his trophy collection might have been more impressive.

Nadal, who forged a close relationship with Federer, enjoyed a 24-16 head-to-head advantage.

“I have always had the greatest respect for my friend Rafa as a person and as a champion,” he wrote when the Spaniard won a 13th Roland Garros in 2020, equaling his record 20 majors. .

Against Djokovic, with whom relations have never been so cordial as with the equally revered Nadal, Federer trailed 27-23.

They shared history in 2019 when the Serb triumphed in the longest Wimbledon final ever, just three minutes shy of five hours.

Heartbreaking for Federer, he wasted two championship points.

Since that day, Djokovic has also equaled and surpassed his record of 20 Slams and broken his record for weeks at number one.

On the eve of his shattering loss to Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final, Federer said he hasn’t set a date to retire.

“It’s just discussions I always have with my wife about family, my kids, is everyone happy on tour, are we happy to pack up and go on tour for five, six, seven weeks. Are we ready to do it?” he said.

“At the moment it doesn’t seem to be a problem at all, which is wonderful.”

However, with a year lost due to injuries and the Covid-19 pandemic as well as a return to a standstill in 2021, Federer’s ‘wonderful time’ is finally over.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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