Roger Federer brings down curtain on his career with a defeat, but still dazzles alongside longtime friend and rival Rafael Nadal



CNN

Roger Federer’s career may have ended in failure on Friday, but the five-minute standing ovation that followed was a testament to the unique, indelible mark he has left on tennis.

The crowd’s flattery, seemingly endless applause and chants of “Roger, Roger, Roger” brought Federer to tears.

“I’m happy, I’m not sad,” he said after the game, beating Jack Sock and Francis Tia 6-4 6-7 9-11 in the Laver Cup at London’s O2 Stadium Fu and old friend and rival Rafael Nadal. arena.

“I liked the last time I laced my shoes. Everything was the last time.”

After 24 years of excellence on the court — more than 1,500 matches, 103 singles titles and 20 Grand Slams — this is Federer’s last game.

The epic tiebreak that sealed the victory for the American duo was not only the fitting end to a match that, though intense and often emotional, far exceeded expectations in grandeur and quality, it was also one that produced so much. A moment of professional career genius and a joy to many.

Roger Federer of Team Europe expresses emotion as he greets fans after his final match at the O2 Arena in London, England, September 23, 2022.

The three-day competition between teams from Europe and the rest of the world has rarely felt like an exhibition since its inception in 2017, and Federer’s announcement of his retirement added some welcome prestige to the weekend’s competition.

While the competition, which consists of nine singles and three doubles matches may not have attracted global attention before, this year’s event is now undoubtedly one of the biggest tennis events of the year.

Of course, that’s mostly because it’s Federer’s swan song, but it also offers tennis fans something they haven’t seen in years: Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are all healthy , and participated in the same game together.

The four superstars’ social media posts in the week before the event will no doubt make fans nostalgic. The quartet shows genuine enthusiasm for each other, like a group of school friends who haven’t seen each other in years as they explore London’s landmarks.

Perhaps, though, the sense of nostalgia comes not only from the 2022 Laver Cup, which marked the end of Federer’s long and storied career, but also from the fact that it finally confirmed the end of tennis’ golden age.

Nadal, Djokovic and Murray are all in their 30s and have all experienced lengthy injury absences at some point in their careers, and their eventual retirements are now all the more important for the sport .

Those four players — “the Big Three plus some clowns,” as Murray hilariously put it on his own Instagram page — will officially no longer grace the same game.

Federer served in Friday's game.

It’s debatable where Federer’s on-court accomplishments in the men’s game top the list — though he’s unquestionably in the top three — and he’s without a doubt the greatest tennis player of all time.

Largely due to the way he plays, no one else in the sport has achieved global adoration, recognition or cultural icon status like the suave Swiss superstar.

For most of his career, Federer seemed to slide on the court instead of bouncing, his hair flowing and bouncing above his headband, and his stunning one-handed backhand was arguably the most beautiful ever The most iconic and recognizable tennis game.

More importantly, the beauty of his game brought unprecedented success at his peak. He became the first player to break the men’s record of 14 Grand Slam titles previously held by Pete Sampras, before becoming the first player to reach the landmark 20 titles.

While Nadal and Djokovic may have now surpassed his grand slam totals, Federer’s epic career battles with both players have only further added to his legacy.

On another day, the three games before Federer’s final goodbye might be noteworthy in themselves – Murray vs. Alex De Minaur was a particularly engrossing match – but today felt like a warm-up for the main event .

At the end of Murray’s second set with De Minaur – the Australian won in the third-set tiebreak to earn Team World’s first point of the day – Federer replaced him in the European team’s lounge shorts and headband. Looks ready to play, which only adds to the anticipation building up in the arena.

In a post-match on-court interview with De Minaur, he mentioned how he would be cheering for Team World against Nadal and Federer, only to be booed by the crowd before the 23-year-old erupted into uproar laughing out loud.

Team Europe's Roger Federer on the first day of the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London on Friday.

As Federer walked to the court, his name was finally announced, and the roar of the crowd was so deafening that the announcer was completely drowned out before he finished introducing the Swiss and his doubles partner Nadal.

The 41-year-old was greeted with cheers again as he read out his results in the warm-up, but the loudest roar came from Federer’s volley that gave him and Nadal the first point of the match .

Federer’s shot remained methodical for most of the opening exchanges as he moved on the court with his signature graceful demeanor, but Federer’s legs started when Tiafoe’s shot landed less than two yards in front of him. It was the first time he showed it when he tried to touch the ball.

Not that these moments happen often, it’s a remarkable thought considering his age and the three knee surgeries he’s undergone. In fact, as he continues to show his extraordinary touch — especially at the net — it’s likely that most in the O2 arena will wonder why he’s retiring.

Especially when the replay was played on the big screen, the crowd gasped in shock. Federer, chasing a short ball, squeezed his forehand through the tiny gap between the net and the post.

It may have cost them that as the ball passed under the top of the net, but even in the final game of his career, Federer produced most moments never before seen on a tennis court.

Federer poses with Nadal, Djokovic and Murray after a practice session ahead of the 2022 Laver Cup.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, throughout his career, many viewers have often described it as a wand rather than a racket, which still seems to have a lot of magic in it.

Earlier, both Federer and Nadal laughed, including when Federer apparently misheard plans for the upcoming points and had to walk back to his partner for another debrief, causing the Swiss to raise his hands sheepishly Apologize.

But the atmosphere on the pitch changed as the first set wore on, as the relentless competitive nature that had made these two players so formidable over the years finally came to the fore.

When the duo, affectionately known as “Fedal” by fans, won the first set 6-4, the atmosphere in the arena was on the verge of party mode.

But don’t get me wrong, Sock and Tiafoe were never willing to roll over and give Federer an easy win. The American duo broke serve early in the second set as they looked to spoil the party atmosphere, but Federer and Nadal were quick to restore a tie.

Roger Federer is hoisted after Laver Cup tennis match.

The best game of the match was tied at 5-5, with Nadal saving six break points – one of which was Federer’s back-to-back smash that drew cheers from the crowd – putting the pair on the verge of defeat. victory.

But Sock then made a tricky serve of his own to tie the game in a tiebreaker, and Federer – and the stadium – thought the first point of his serve was met with resounding boos from all over the field. Voice.

The American duo’s brilliant tiebreaker sealed the second set and led to an epic tiebreaker.

The drama of the third set – Federer and Nadal leading 3-0 and being wasted, Thiafo hitting Federer’s back with a forehand, Federer’s ace getting a standing ovation – was a fitting one ending. Unparalleled career.

In the end, it didn’t matter that Federer didn’t win, and the mood he gave in his farewell speech — barely passing it when it came to the support his family had given him throughout his career — also diminished his doubles partner. weeping.

“It felt like a celebration,” Federer said. “That’s exactly what I wanted in the end, exactly what I wanted.”

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