Roger Federer pairs with Rafael Nadal in last match, falls in doubles at Laver Cup

LONDON — This day, this match, certainly has to come for Roger Federer and tennis, as it inevitably does for every athlete in every sport.

Federer said goodbye to his final match Friday night before retiring at 41 after a career that included 20 Grand Slam titles and roles as statesman. He finished his career with a 4-6, 7-6 (2), 11-9 record.

Winners, stats, and scores are irrelevant and completely irrelevant. After all, the occasion was about the farewell itself. Or, better yet, farewell: Federer says goodbye to tennis, to fans, to his rivals and colleagues. Of course, each of these entities said goodbye to Federer.

“It’s been a perfect journey,” Federer said. “I’ll do it again.”

When the match was over, his professional tennis career was over and Federer hugged Nadal, then Thiafoe and Sock. Then Federer started crying. There were bursts of applause and cheers from the stands, with Federer on his hips and his chest heaving. Then he said, “Thank you,” while applauding the audience who were chanting “Let’s go, Roger! Let’s go!”At the end of a game that lasted more than two hours and ended around 12:30 a.m.

The Swiss star announced last week that the three-day team event, created by his management company, would be his last before retiring, before making it clear that the doubles match would be his last. His surgically repaired right knee – the last of three operations performed shortly after the quarter-final defeat at Wimbledon in July 2021, will be his last official singles match – unable to Let him keep playing.

“For me personally, [it was] It was sad at first, and when I came to the conclusion, it was the best decision,” Federer told The Associated Press this week about his emotions when he realized it was time to leave. “I was a little stuck at first, then knock it back. But I can feel the pain. “

“I’ve done this thousands of times, but this time it doesn’t feel the same,” Federer tweeted hours before Friday’s game. “Thank you to everyone who showed up tonight.”

He had said he wanted it to be more of a party than a funeral, and the crowd rose when Federer and Nadal — each in a white bandanna, blue shirt and white shorts — showed up together, Standing ovation, standing ovation. Play the final game of Day 1 at the O2 Arena from the tunnel to the Black Stadium. Through the pre-match warm-up, the audience stood for nearly 10 minutes, holding up their mobile phone cameras to capture the moment.

They were ready to roar for him, some with Swiss flags, some with homemade slogans, and they heard themselves in the sound of a wall when Federer delivered a forehand volley for the winner at the second point of the match. A similar reaction only resurfaced when the presiding umpire announced the third game of “Roger Federer Serve” when he ended that game with a 117 mph service winner.

Of course, doubles require far less movement and floor coverage, so the pressure on his knees on Friday was limited. To be sure, Federer showed his old talent, and expected rust.

There were a few early forehands that were a few feet too far away while his parents and wife were in the front seats behind the baseline. And a forehand slid between Sock and Thiafoe, looking too good to be true – the result: the ball went through the gap under the belt, so the point was taken from Federer and Nadal gone.

While it basically amounted to a glorified show, all four doubles players acted as if they wanted to win. It was evident when Sock jumped up and screamed after a particularly fine volley, or when Thiafo threw a few balls at Federer and Nadal.

But the situation does allow for moments of frivolity.

Federer and Nadal were able to laugh after being a little confused about who should grab the ball at the point where they lost. After Nadal had somehow flicked a back-net shot around the post, only because it almost landed on the touchline, Thiafoe crossed, extending a hand to congratulate him on his effort.

In the first set, the two greats couldn’t hear each other between the points, so Federer trotted from the net back to the baseline to discuss with Nadal, then pointed to his ear to show the fans what was wrong.

Before Federer, the men’s score at most major tennis tournaments was Pete Sampras’ 14. Federer went above and beyond that, amassing eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the US Open and one at the French Open, setting a new standard, and the now 22-year-old Nathaniel has won. Dahl tied and surpassed Novak Djokovic, 21, as part of the sport’s golden age.

Federer’s rich resume includes 310 weeks of ATP No. 1, Davis Cup titles and Olympic medals. Aside from the grace and efficiency with which he wields the racket, his image made Federer a tennis ambassador, and his immense popularity helped attract fans.

Of course, some will find it especially easy to watch Federer finish off Nadal, who is usually a nemesis on the court but ultimately a friend off the court. Maybe it could happen at the All England Club Centre Court about 15 miles away, or at the Philippe Chatelier at Roland Garros, or at the Rod Laver Arena at Melbourne Park, or even at the heart of the US Open. Surash Stadium. , somehow, the only Grand Slam in which they have never faced.

Maybe they could have offered everyone a head-to-head final match as memorable as any in their sport’s long history — or, in fact, any other.

Roger v Rafa – just need a name – of McEnroe v Borg (which happens to be the two Laver Cup captains John and Bjorn), Evert v Navratilova, San Plath vs Agassi, Ali vs Frazier, Magic vs Bird, Brady vs Manning and more.

Over the years, Federer and Nadal have displayed individual greatness and striking contrasts in their 40 matches, 14 of which were Grand Slams and nine in Grand Slam finals: right-handed versus left-handed, attacking The grinder and the grinder, the seemingly relaxed and relentless intensity.

There is, however, an unmistakable poeticness to the performance of these two men who challenge and elevate each other as partners, clapping palms and sharing smiles.

“Two ‘GOATs’ playing together,” Sock said, using the popular acronym “the greatest ever.”

Three weeks ago, Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, said goodbye after a third-round loss at the U.S. Open. It leaves questions about the future of the game he and she ruled and surpassed for decades.

A key difference: Every time Williams plays in New York, a looming question is how long she can hold out — the “win or so” prospect. Whatever the outcome, Friday is Federer’s.

“All the players will miss him,” said Caspar Rudd, who beat Sock 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 in singles.

Other results tied Europe and World 2-2: Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-1 in a match when an environmental protester set part of the pitch on fire and set his own arm on fire . , Alex De Minaur passed Andy Murray 5-7, 6-3, 10-7.

Since the game started shortly after Murray’s loss, Federer and Nadal first offered him some coaching tips, then watched part of it together on TV in a room in the arena, waiting for their turn. As Federer and Nadal got their act together, it was Djokovic’s turn to make strategic suggestions.

The last cheer came after Federer’s total of 103 professional singles trophies and 1,251 singles victories, both of which were second only to Jimmy Connors in the Open era that began in 1968.

At his peak, Federer reached 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals in the 2005-07 season, winning eight. Extending that to 2010, he reached 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals.

In addition to these numbers, one will remember a powerful forehand, one-handed backhand, perfect footwork, a desire to serve and hit the net extremely effectively, a willingness to reinvent every aspect of the game and – some of which he is most proud of The — unusual longevity.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see someone like Roger again,” Tiafoe said. “The way he plays, his grace, and who he is as a person.”

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