A tearful Roger Federer bid farewell to professional tennis after meeting his great friend Rafael Nadal on an emotional night at the Laver Cup.
The 41-year-old received a standing ovation after walking off the court for the last time when he retired as a professional.
The Swiss, who won 20 Grand Slam singles titles, is considered one of the best players in tennis history.
“It’s been a wonderful day. I’m happy, not sad. It feels great to be here. I’m happy that I’ve progressed,” he said.
Federer cried as he hugged Nadal and other players, then received a standing ovation from 17,500 fans who chanted his name.
Even Nadal couldn’t hold back his tears. The 36-year-old Spaniard wept as he sat next to Federer as the pair ended a memorable night with a performance for British singer Ellie Goulding.
Federer and Nadal – fierce rivals at the top of the men’s game – joined forces to play doubles against American pair Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe in the annual showdown between Europe and the rest of the world.
Although Federer had not played for more than a year, the pair pushed Sock and Tiafoe before losing 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 11-9 at the O2 Arena.
It ended the 25-year professional career of the former world number one, 1,750 in singles and doubles competition. after the game
“It’s been a perfect trip. I’d do it all over again,” Federer said in his on-court speech as he fought back tears.
Federer throws the retirement celebration he wanted
Federer spoke about throwing a party to mark his final match, saying he wanted it to be a fun occasion and not a funeral.
As he wished, there was a celebratory atmosphere in the 17,500-seat venue.
Watched by his wife Mirka, their four children and his parents Robert and Lynette, Federer’s every move felt euphoric and empathetic at the same time.
The family then joined the court for a long celebration that saw more tears and Federer being lifted up by his players.
“Everyone is here, boys and girls. My wife has been very supportive. A long time ago, she could have stopped it but she didn’t,” said Federer.
“He kept me going and let me play, so it’s amazing, thank you.”
The presence of several tennis legends, including Rod Laver, Hollywood actor Hugh Grant and Vogue editor Anna Wintour, among others, was added to the list of celebrities.
Current world No. 1s Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek tweeted their range of emotions as they watched the match on TV, as did Federer’s Swiss Davis Cup teammate Stan Wawrinka.
Federer was fit enough to play doubles due to a knee injury and his movement was limited.
Afterwards, he joked that he was happy to finish the match without pulling a muscle in his calf or back.
“Being with the guys and having family and friends, I didn’t feel that much stress even though I felt like something was going to go during the match,” Federer said.
“I’m so happy I got through and it was a great game. I couldn’t be happier.”
What Federer means to tennis and his fans
Not only did Federer push boundaries with his game and set many new records, he also became one of the most popular players tennis has ever seen.
His playing style – described as balletic, elegant and fluid – has endeared him to millions of fans around the world. Also his kind and charming personality.
Federer transcends tennis. For some, it almost transcends the world.
Before the match, you could see hundreds of fans entering the court wearing Federer branded clothing and accessories.
Hats, T-shirts, scarves, banners and even custom made earrings. All red and white – Switzerland’s national colors – in most of their hero’s initials: RF.
Some Swiss flags were also draped around the inside of the stadium.
A Federer super-fan at the O2 Arena, Poland’s Robert Springer, described his idol as the “King of Tennis”.
“He has quality, empathy, a super sportsman, a good gentleman and father. He also always has time for his fans. He is the only one,” Robert told BBC Sport.
Tickets for Friday night’s session were already sold out before Federer announced his retirement after the team’s annual event last week.
After the news, they were being offered on resale platforms for over £1,000 each. They were initially available for between £40 and £510.
Although the match finished at 00:26 BST, the celebrations continued for another half hour or so, with few of those in attendance leaving before the end.
“Thanks to everyone. I’ve been encouraged by a lot of people and you guys mean the world here tonight,” added Federer.
|20 Grand Slam singles titles||310 as number one in the world for weeks|
|103 ATP titles||28 1,000 master’s degrees|
|6 ATP Finals victories||31 Grand Slam finals|
|1 Davis Cup victory||£114 million career prize money|