Having announced his decision to leave tennis due to his physical problems after several knee operations, Roger Federer has shared his great desire for his last official match on a tennis court. And he passes, of course, for his friend and eternal rival Rafael Nadal.
The 41-year-old Swiss tennis player confirmed on Wednesday that his last match as a professional tennis player will be a doubles match at the ‘Laver Cup’ in London, while acknowledging that he would like to play it alongside the Spaniard.
The expectation in London was high for the appearance of Federer, who will put an end to a career spanning more than two decades and with 20 Grand Slam titles, among many other awards, in his showcases. The Swiss will be the biggest attraction of the ‘Laver Cup’which from Friday to Sunday will face a European team made up of him, Nadal, Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Ruud and Murray, against another from the rest of the world, made up of Schwartzman, De Miñaur, Auger-Aliassime, Fritz, Tiafoe and Sock.
Impeccably dressed, serene and slow as always but with a grimace of sadness, relief in his voice and a look full of emotion, the Swiss recalled his first years as a junior, starting in 1993. “We never would have thought that I would be sitting here at 41 years old giving my last press conference, remembering all the moments and games I have played.
He claimed to have accepted the difficult withdrawal: «The hardest part is when you realize that it is the end. I am not satisfied, but I am happy with the decision, because it is the right one and I have thought about it a lot.
A doubles on Friday night
Neither the organizers of the ‘Laver Cup’, nor the captains of the two teams, Björn Borg and John McEnroe respectively, have yet announced how the matches will be divided. But Federer asked to play only “one doubles on Friday night” because, he said, he knows his “limitations.”
“Björn said it’s fine,” he said and that he would later be replaced by the Italian Matteo Berrettini. “Obviously I’m nervous because I haven’t played in a long time,” he admitted.
Playing that match alongside Nadal, his longest-running rival, “of course, without a doubt, I think it could be quite a unique situation,” he said, underlining the mutual respect they profess. “It could be a special moment.”
The last time Federer played on the professional circuit was at the 2021 edition of Wimbledon, after which he had to undergo knee surgery for the third time. He last won a Grand Slam at the 2018 Australian Open.
This July he returned to the turf of London’s ‘All England Club’, but only to take part in the centenary celebrations of its legendary center court, and to express his desire to play there once more. However, it has not been possible.
“I was getting more tired having to put in more effort to believe that I was going to turn the situation around and I started to be pessimistic, then I received the result of a scan that was not what I wanted,” he explained.
The last few weeks had been emotionally charged, he admitted, searching for the right way, the “right” words, to announce his retirement and his feelings, a strange mixture of “sweet and bitter.”
“I will not be a ghost”
“The things that you will miss are precisely the things that you are glad you never have to live through again,” he said, mentioning “the knots in your stomach” during the long waits before a match.
And he promised that he will return to the tracks soon, although he said he still does not know in what capacity. “I just wanted the fans to know that I won’t be a ghost,” he said, recalling how Borg himself “didn’t come back to Wimbledon for 25 years.”
Finally, Roger Federer regretted never having had the opportunity to compete against the new world number one, the Spaniard Carlos Alcarazwith whom he did train a long time ago.
And he affirmed of this new generation of tennis players, “more athletic than ever”, that even if they change the style of play “I will be their number one fan”.