Bruce Chen, '24
“40-15, Federer serves. A clean cross-court return from Tiafoe, and Federer slices back. Here comes Sock ready to poach, he hits right at Nadal, but a nice reaction at the net from Rafa saves the point. Back to Tiafoe, a short ball across the net, not a bad choice. Now Roger approaches and hits a forehand down the line. What a passing shot! The ball went directly through the net, classic Roger magic. Sock and Big Foe can’t believe what has happened. The judge comes down to check, and without doubt, points for Team Europe. Game.” This is my recap of a spectacular winner from Federer last Friday. Consternation from the opponents, admiration from the other players, and waves of applause from the crowd, all seem to be back for him.
But the day still has to come.
On September 23, 2022, 41-year-old Roger Federer announced his retirement from competitive tennis after losing to Sock/Tiafoe (4-6, 7-6, 11-9) in Laver Cup doubles alongside Rafael Nadal, marking the end of the Swiss legend’s 24-year long professional career.
As the symbol of perfection in tennis, ending the career with a defeat seems to be a pity. But is it really the case? Clearly not. “It feels like a celebration,” said Federer in the post-match interview, “It’s exactly what I wanted at the end, exactly what I hoped for.” Indeed, having won 103 ATP singles titles including 20 Grand Slams, as well as one Olympic silver medal in singles (2012), one gold medal in doubles (2008), and plenty of other accomplishments on or beyond the court, one loss matters little. Perhaps what means the most to Federer is that he played his last match on the same side with Nadal against two next-gen players who grew up watching him play on TVs. That last moment is shared with Djokovic and Murray cheering for him from the bench, with all other players and fans in the audience and worldwide witnessing his last dance. “I’m happy, not sad.” All joys are embodied in these simple words.
As players of the next generations gradually come to dominate in recent years, with Serena and Federer retiring in the same month, it seems to be a sad truth that the old generation is leaving us. However, leaving does not mean forgetting, the qualities of Roger’s tennis are still seen in many young players–the incredible backhand overhead from Tsitsipas in the same day’s match against Schwartzman is a great example–and hence, the legends have passed down their legacy to the future players and they themselves will be remembered forever as the milestones in the history of tennis.
“This is the ultimate that you could ever ask.”