Roger Federer says his decision to retire came after he stopped “thinking” he could continue playing because of injuries.
The Swiss, 41, has not played at Wimbledon since 2021 after undergoing a third knee operation.
“The last three years have been tough, to say the least,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“I knew I was on very thin ice since I played Wimbledon last year.
“I tried to come back but there was a limit to what I could do. And I stopped believing in it, to be honest.”
Federer said he had a scan again a few months later and “it wasn’t what I expected,” adding: “We realized very quickly that it was.
“Then the question becomes: how do you announce it and when do you announce it? This is when it becomes reality. It was good but stressful.”
In a wide-ranging interview with Sally Nugent, Federer discussed his emotional retirement statement, reflected on his trophy-laden career, explored what’s next and offered memories of the late queen.
“Writing those words was like rehab”
The eight-time Wimbledon champion announced his retirement last Thursday in a statement on social media.
“It’s been a very emotional week to try to get those words right, to reflect how I feel and to thank all the people who have helped me along the way,” he said.
“I always pushed my retirement thoughts away. I said, the more I think about it, the more I’m semi-retired and this is not the way to go, you know, for me as a tennis player, so I’ll deal with it when it comes. And he did. And deal with it. i did to him
“I think that writing those words, for me, was partially, partially, like rehabilitation, to go through all those words myself, to feel them.”
“I totally got it in my head”
Now considered an all-time great, Federer says he never entered tennis imagining he would be so successful, and having achieved so much, he was happy to leave.
He spent 310 weeks as world number one – including a record 237 weeks – and won 103 ATP singles titles.
“I don’t think anyone grows up and thinks they’re going to win that much,” Federer said. “You know, you’re happy with winning a Wimbledon title, which is already crazy, or being ranked number one, being the best.
“But then you don’t think about how many weeks, this is only the media and the fans talking about breaking the mark.
“Before this, I hope to be on the tour one day. To get into the top 100 is a huge deal. Coming from a small country, we don’t have that many players base.”
“I totally nailed it. It’s been a dream I’ve had for so long. And I know that, and that’s why I’m totally happy to leave.”
‘It was a pleasure to see’
Federer has played in the era when he, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray dominated the majors.
All four men will be on the same team for the September 23-26 Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-style tournament that pits Team Europe against Team World.
Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray will line up for Europe alongside Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas at the final professional competition in Switzerland.
He’s happy that his time has excited tennis fans, but he doesn’t think they should worry about the future of the sport as it’s ending.
Federer said: “When I went up, we didn’t expect it either. You know, it was a bit more uphill after that. [Pete] Sampras retired. What comes next, right? Well, I came here, and then Rafa came. And then Novak, and then Andy, all together.
“All of a sudden there was this beautiful mix, we’ve all been winning for 10-plus years, the same tournaments, almost nobody could win anything else. It was like a lockout of major tournaments.
“So I think, for the fans as well, it’s been a joy to see, and I’m sure some fans will be sad that I’m leaving, of course, but then again, there’s always going to be some great new people.
“I think our track allows for an incredible story, so I know the game is very safe, and I’m sure it will see some incredible new superstars.”
Finding a new Swiss superstar
Federer says he has no concrete plans for his retirement, but would like to continue playing tennis and would be interested in coaching youth to bring the next generation of talent to Switzerland.
However, Federer plans to spend more time with his wife, Mirka, and their four children.
He said: “I’ve always tried to keep it clean by the time I retire because I have four kids and they’re amazing and they need my support. And my wife too, she’s always been there for me. So that’s it. what they want and what we should do.
“I’d always love to mentor kids and start a new Swiss superstar. If I’ve helped the federation a little bit here and there, you know, I see those things.
“But I still have to figure things out a little bit. I’m going home after this. And then we’re going to be on vacation shortly after that with the kids. So I think it’s going to be a nice time to reflect and look forward.”
He added: “I love this game and I want to be a part of it in some shape or form. I’m not going to be a ghost or a stranger.”
Memories of the Queen
After enjoying some of the biggest moments of his career in the UK, Federer was emotional at Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral on Monday.
He fondly recalled meeting the Queen on her last visit to Wimbledon in 2010, 33 years since she had previously attended, and praised the royal family’s support for tennis.
Federer said: “I had a chance to have lunch with him at Wimbledon when he finally came back to Wimbledon after handing over the trophy to Virginia Wade. [in 1977].
“Everyone in tennis was very happy that he came and I was lucky enough to meet him. I will remember that forever.”