A tearful Roger Federer paid tribute to his wife Mirka and declared himself “happy and not sad” despite ending his professional career with a Laver Cup doubles loss to Rafael Nadal.
The 20-times grand slam champion announced last week that he would withdraw from competitive tennis with one final game in the Ryder Cup-style competition that was his brainchild.
London was the destination for the fifth edition of the Laver Cup, the city for some of Federer’s biggest wins, but the Swiss superstar couldn’t add another win to his illustrious CV.
Team World duo Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe proved mime villains with a 4-6 7-6(2) 11-9 win in 02 but it was still a celebration for the 41-year-old.
Federer enjoyed a long hug with longtime team-mate Nadal, who also later burst into tears, at the end of the match before he was given one final round of applause by the sold-out crowd even though the clock was past midnight.
“We’re going to get through this somehow,” Federer said on court.
“Listen, it’s a beautiful day. I tell people I’m happy, I’m not sad. It’s great to be here and I’m enjoying tying my shoes once again.
“Everything last time. Funny enough with all the matches, being with friends and having family and friends, I don’t feel stressed so much even if I feel something will happen during the game. I’m really happy I made it through and it was a really good match. I couldn’t be happier.
“Of course playing with Rafa in the same team, having all the players here, the legends, Rocket (Rod Laver), Stefan Edberg, thank you.
“It feels like a celebration to me. I wanted to feel this way in the end and that’s what I hoped for, so thank you.
“It was a perfect trip and I would do it again…”
Federer had to hold back tears before he thanked wife Mirka, who had watched him struggle through a series of knee surgeries before he finally conceded defeat in his bid to bounce back last week.
He added: “Thank you everyone. I have so many people cheering me on and you guys here tonight mean so much.
“My wife was very supportive… she could have stopped me long ago, but she didn’t. He kept me going and allowed me to play, so thank you. He’s great.”
Federer has been treated to much applause at the O2 this week, first from reporters at the end of his press conference on Wednesday before again during a training session with the ‘top four’ a day later.
Another round of applause greeted his arrival on the pitch for this ‘final dance’. It seemed fitting for the Swiss champ – donning his white headband – to sign in London, home to many of his most famous victories including an impressive first major title at Wimbledon in 2003 and then a record 15th grand slam six years later that propelled him. ahead of longtime rival Pete Sampras.
When the first ball was hit furiously, just after the 10.11pm start, it took Federer a few seconds before a quick volley across the net caused a rumble in the arena.
Alongside his long-term sparring partner Nadal, the rivalry flowed as Federer produced a superb serve and volley in the seventh game.
The former world number one is now in a good mood and produced a game of clutch tennis at the critical moment to score the opener in 42 minutes after more remarkable net play by the 41-year-old.
In keeping with this unique situation, Novak Djokovic, holder of 21 majors, is ready to give words of wisdom when needed and is also one of the most enthusiastic celebrating every point won by the partnership nicknamed Fedal.
Things turned around in the second set and although Federer’s right knee appeared to be holding back – it was a series of surgeries on his body that saw him finally concede defeat in his quest to continue playing – fatigue was creeping up on both of them. farmer’s hall.
Sock and Tiafoe had warned they were not there to score and snatch the second set to force a tie-break decider.
While the Americans would eventually claim victory after two hours and 14 minutes, they did so only after a few final strokes for Federer, who dispatched a 116mph ace and delightfully nimble drop shot that proved the final winner of an incredible career.