By Ana Bodevan, October 6 2022—
On Sept. 23, a tennist from Basel, Switzerland, partnered up with his long-time Spanish rival and friend for the last professional match of his career. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played against Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe at the Laver Cup, in London. The European duo ended up with a loss against the Americans, but that did not cloud away the true intention of the match — to celebrate and pay homage to one of greatest tennis players. Under the screams of “Let’s go Roger, let’s go!” the tennist was moved to tears in an emotional celebration deserving of a 24-year career marked by 103 single competition titles, 20 grand slams, and the longest time on top of the ATP ranking.
Federer’s retirement announcement came on Sept. 15, in an emotional Instagram post.
“I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career,” read the post. “As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear.”
Federer also thanked his competitors, showing gratitude over the years of being able to compete with other high-level athletes.
“I was lucky enough to play so many epic matches that I will never forget. We battled fairly, with passion and intensity, and I always tried my best to respect the history of the game. I feel extremely grateful,” read the post.
Federer says his love for tennis started when he was a boy and worked as a ball kid in his hometown of Basel. “I used to watch the players with a sense of wonder. They were like giants to me and I began to dream. My dreams led me to work harder and I started to believe in myself,” he says. After a few victories in national tournaments, Federer is enrolled, age 14, in the national Swiss tennis development program, leaving home for the first time to live in a city where he didn’t understand the language (Basel is a German-speaking Swiss city, while Eclubens, where do program took place, is French-speaking). Regardless of the difficulties, Roger thrived, conquering his first junior international titles, including a Wimbledon trophy.
In his first professional season in 1999, Federer debuted in the 301st position in the international ranks and ended it in the 64th position. It was at that moment that the world watched the birth of a new tennis sensation. Over the decades, Federer proved the hype was deserved, with eight Wimbledon singles titles — he has had the most wins in the oldest, most prestigious tennis competition in the world.
Following his appearance and victory over his first Grand Slam final in 2003, Federer would go on to dominate the sport. Curiously, Federer is especially victorious against American players: in total, he won 105 of 118 single matches against US players. With 20 grand slams under his belt — 15 of them conquered in a space of just six years, from 2003 to 2009 — it can be said that Federer has conquered America.
However, Federer did not dominate the male tennis world on his own. Alongside Nadal and Novak Djokovic, the European trio was called The Big Three. Since Wimbledon 2003, they have together won 63 of the 77 majors.