Roger Federer: Reaction to tennis legend's retirement

After an emotional final match alongside great friend and rival Rafael Nadal on Friday, Swiss great Federer retired from professional tennis. Olympics.com takes a look at some of the reactions from the sporting world and beyond.

6 min By Jo Gunston l Created 24 September
Roger Federer Laver Cup tennis
(Picture by 2022 Getty Images)

"With Roger's farewell, a part of me has left with him."

So said Rafael Nadal about his great nemesis and friend, at a press conference following Roger Federer’s last ever professional tennis match.

The pair took to the court at the Laver Cup in London on Friday (23 September) as part of Team Europe, who are taking on Team World in the annual event over the course of three days. The doubles loss Federer and Nadal suffered to America's Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe wasn't in the script, but, for once, winning wasn't everything.

This wasn’t just any match. It was the beginning of the end for the greatest triumvirate of tennis players of all time.

Federer’s final tally of 20 Grand Slam title wins, the third best ever in the men’s game in the Open era, to Nadal's 22 and Novak Djokovic’s 21, elevates the three head and shoulders above next best, America’s Pete Sampras, on 14.

But the GOAT argument was silenced this night. This time, humanity won out; the focus of much of the comment on how Federer carried himself off court as much as on.

“First of all, when I hear the name Roger, I have nightmares,” smiles Andy Roddick in a retirement video made by the US Open for the Swiss, “because he gave me nightmares for so long."

The American lost four Grand Slam finals – Wimbledon in 2004, 2005, and 2009, and the US Open in 2006 – all to Federer, but has nothing but kinds words for the man who limited him to one major win. "Roger’s all class. He acts the same way when no one’s watching.

"He's a real person. He's not an enigma. Off the court he's not trying to be somebody. If you met him at McDonald's and you didn't know who he was, you would have no idea that he's one of the best athletes in the world."

Next gen pay tribute

The rising stars of the game were as invested in the 'Last Match' as the fans watching worldwide, voicing their appreciation and adding their own stories of Federer's support behind the scenes.

A member of Team Europe, Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas, waxed lyrical about Federer's renowned elegant style and how it inspired him. “He’s the reason I thought of tennis as this beautiful magical thing where you can just go for crazy shots and somehow make it.”

American Coco Gauff, who burst onto the scene at Wimbledon as a 15 year old, knocking out five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round in 2019, appreciates the advice given to her by the experienced campaigner.

"Thank you Roger Federer for elevating the game in so many ways on and off the court. Thank you for all the advice you’ve given me over the years. Thank you for being the best role model for so many. Thank you for everything."

Meanwhile there weren't enough emojis or gifs available to enable Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz to express his emotions during Federer's last match.

The 19-year-old stunned the tennis world himself earlier this month by winning his first Grand Slam, the US Open, emulating countryman Nadal's achievement in winning his first major at the same age in 2005. Alcaraz posted broken heart and tearful emojis on his twitter following Federer's last game.

Women’s world number one and current US Open champion Iga Swiatek was similarly invested, tweeting: "I have a practice in the morning but sleep needs to wait tonight.

"I just want to thank you for everything you've done and everything you are for our sport. It's been a privilege to witness your career. I wish you all the best."

Tennis' greatest ambassador

The off-court character to which Roddick refers includes areas such as being able to navigate an often notoriously tricky relationships between sport stars and media. Yet Federer was gracious in this area too – mostly with his most precious commodity – time.

Tennis podcaster and writer Ben Rothenberg posted on Twitter ahead of the 2019 Australian Open: "You’ve heard how good Roger Federer is as being an ambassador, but he still continues to impress. After his match yesterday, he did a long English press session, left the room, but happily turned around and came back to do more in French and German when asked by a reporter."

Meanwhile, the Roger Federer Foundation, has helped nigh-on two million underprivileged children have access to education with Federer stating: "I believe in the power of people.

"We know that a good education empowers children by allowing them to take their future into their own hands and play an active part in shaping it."

The man known simply as "Roger" has impacted sporting icons outside of tennis alongside impacting industries away from sport, with fashion icon Anna Wintour and actor Hugh Grant watching this famous night from the stands.

Cricket legend Virat Kohli remarked on one of the most moving moments of the night, the relationship between Federer and Nadal, which has morphed over the years from intense rivalry to the greatest of respect and friendship, with the Spaniard sobbing alongside his retiring friend.

"Who thought rivals can feel like this towards each other. That’s the beauty of sport."

Kohli's India team-mate, Sachin Tendulkarwished Federer the best for the "second innings of your life".

The Federer family way

In the on-court interview Federer struggled to hold it together when asked about the support of his family – his wife Mirka, their four children, and parents were all courtside. “We’re going to go there are we?” he said as he smiled through his tears, already struggling to talk about his peers, fans, and the game he loves so much, let alone those closest to him.

"Everyone's here, the boys and girls. My wife has been so supportive. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn't. She kept me going and allowed me to play, so it's amazing - thank you."

As his children joined him on court, 13-year-old twins Charlene and Myla, and fellow twins Lenny and Leo, eight, Federer was quick to reassure the tearful troop: "I'm happy, I'm not sad," he told them, as he enveloped them in a giant hug.

He was trying to tell them, and perhaps himself, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened’.

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