He gave it about as good of a try as anyone, but even Roger Federer can’t outrun Father Time. Father Time remains untied and undefeated, but Federer will always be among a select group of the “Greatest Evers”.
Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Arnold Palmer… Roger Federer.
Tonight in London as the Laver in just a few hours the great Federer walks on and off a court competitively as a pro for final time. After 24 years, the time is finally up, he said.
1. WHY NOW?
Having endured multiple knee surgeries and at his age, it was coming. You can hear it in his words. The resolution. He he wanted to play another year. Have one more chance to see everyone one last time but at age 41 nursing a faulty knee, it was not meant to be. His head said yes, the body said no. The body often wins.
“[I] got a scan back which wasn’t what I wanted it to be,” Federer said. “At some point you sit down and go, Okay, we are at an intersection here, at a crossroad, and you have to take a turn. Which way is it?”
It was another surgery or more rehab. There’s no surefire path forward with either choice.
“Maybe the hardest part after that one point, of course you’re sad in the very moment when you realize, okay, this is the end,” he said. “I sort of ignored it for a little bit almost, because I went on vacation and just said, Okay, this is it. This moment came shortly after I was at Wimbledon where I still truly actually believed there was going to be a chance for me to come back the next year. At what capacity, I didn’t know, but I thought it might be possible.
“Then on vacation, funnily enough, I didn’t speak to anybody about it other than my team, my parents, Mirka. We knew. Other than that, nobody really knew, and it was perfect like this. Didn’t talk about it. Just hanging with friends and other families. It was wonderful.”
With his friends and family he made that decision. Now he’ll leave the sport, much in that same way, with his friends and family. Just a lot more people watching. So why not!
2. THE STATS
The numbers, they are well… Federer-like:
– 20 Grand Slam titles
– 103 career titles
– 28 Masters titles
– 6 ATP Finals titles
– 1,251 career match wins
– 369 Grand Slam match wins
– 224 Top 10 wins
– 310 total weeks ranked #1
– 237 consecutives weeks ranked #1
– 5 year-end #1 finishes
– 81 Grand Slam tournaments played
– 10 straight Grand Slam finals
– 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals
– 36 straight Grand Slam quarterfinals
– 46 Grand Slam semifinals
– 58 Grand Slam quarterfinals
– Won first 7 Grand Slam finals
– 1,526 singles matches played (ZERO retirements)
– $130.59M in prize money
3. THE FIRST GOAT
While Federer won’t go down as the GOAT, the Swiss was the first to break 15, first to break 20 and no one can ever take that away.
Above that, Federer transformed the sport. He was the first global tennis superstar of this internet and social media age.
The first real GOAT in the endless public forum of debate in this connected world. He was the first to win it!
And he propelled the likes of Rafael Nadal and the Novak Djokovic to get better, to reach for more, play longer, and now we see it in the next generations of greats like Carlos Alcaraz maybe one day going even further.
Federer’s fingerprints are all over the sport and the future of the sport.
4. THE BEAUTIFUL GAME
They call soccer, I guess specifically Brazilian soccer, the “Beautiful Game”. That was also Federer’s game.
Some said seeing his play was an art form, others even said watching him was a religious experience. It was also timeless.
Unlike the era before him with Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Boris Becker, Federer’s game just flowed. Movements were measured. Strokes were in-synch. It was Swiss timing to perfection.
When he arrived, you could tell his game was something different — apologies to Andy Roddick! Like you were watching a maestro working on his canvas, without him knowing and in real-time.
And there really hasn’t been anyone like him since. There may never be.
5. THE FINAL FOUR
It’s fitting that Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray will all be part of this Federer Farewell bash in London the next few days.
Years ago, tennis players were true rivals. The hate was real. Federer, to a degree, changed that. The nightmare of many of Federer’s dreams, Nadal, will now share the court with him for that final match. What a scene that will be.
Djokovic has even come to honor Federer. The two never seemed to be close, but Djokovic’s appearance further illustrates Federer’s touch.
Oh how the greats can bring people together.
6. WELCOME TO THE CLUB
The stream of retirements this year has been unprecedented. It’s truly hard to keep up. Of course just in the last month tennis is losing its two most popular figures with Federer and Serena Williams who just bowed out at the US Open (at least we think she’s done).
But the sport has also lost JW Tsonga, Juan Martin Del Potro, Ash Barty, Kevin Anderson, Andrea Petkovic, Monica Puig, Tommy Robredo, Sam Querrey and at the end of the year Gilles Simon will hang it up.
And we will likely get a few more announcements in the months to follow.
The big, long-awaited shift is here. The sport will roll on and new stars — many we don’t even know yet — will emerge. Two years ago no one had heard of Carlos Alcaraz, now he’s #1. Who’s next?
7. NOT DONE YET
While we say goodbye to Roger Federer and thank him for the memories, he’s more than hinted that he’ll stay involved in the game.
Pete Sampras took a clean break, but Federer is going to stick around the sport. His company oversees the Laver Cup and represents other players. And someday he could pop into a TV booth or run a tournament, which is in vogue right now.
I think because of his abrupt ending, when he does go back to the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US Opens, plus the other events (and he will!), each tournament will pay tribute.
So while this weekend marks the his official farewell, there may be a few more down the road.
8. THE RIGHT FINISH
Federer burst on the world stage beating Sampras at 2001 Wimbledon. He won his first Grand Slam at the 2003 Wimbledon. So it ends in the very city where it all began, at an event he helped create, playing with — and not against — his Rafael Nadal and with zillions watching. It’s PeRFect.
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