[Breaking news update, published at 7:37 p.m. ET]
Swiss tennis star Roger Federer lost his last professional match, playing doubles alongside Spanish rival Rafael Nadal in the Laver Cup.
Federer and Nadal lost to American duo Francis Tiafoe and Jack Sock 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), (9-11) in the competition featuring a team of European players challenging a team of players. rest of the world.
[Original story, published at 5:10 a.m. ET]
After more than 1,500 matches, 103 singles titles and 20 major slams, it’s time for Roger Federer’s last dance.
The tennis prodigy will be on court for the last time to play his old friend and rival Rafael Nadal in the Laver Cup doubles match at London’s O2 Arena on Friday before he hangs his racket for good.
After 24 years of excellence on the field, Federer will retire as one of the best players ever in the sport, loved by both his rivals and fans alike.
And before his last competitive appearance, some of his toughest opponents over the years, who had been defeated – and on rare occasions – also lost, were showing their respect.
“He has many sports fans to start following tennis,” Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam winner, told CNN Sport. “He’s one of the most popular athletes in all of sports because of the way he does his job on and off the court, and yes, he’s going to leave a huge void and tennis will definitely miss him.”
Twenty-one-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic echoed Murray’s sentiments, highlighting Federer’s broader influence. “As a tennis fan, and not just as a competitor and tennis player, I am grateful for everything he has done for our sport.
“He attracted a lot of interest, positive interest in our sport on and off the court and brought a lot of other sports fans to watch tennis, so his contribution was huge. He had a huge impact on my own career, I became a better player because of the rivalry I had with him over the years,” he said Djokovic for CNN Sport. “I am sure his career will live on for a very long time and will be remembered by many people in the most positive way.”
Although he hasn’t been able to appear as much as he would have liked in recent years, Federer’s presence looms large.
Having made his tour debut in 1998, he has become one of the most dominant tennis players in over two decades, setting records for tour victories and men’s Grand Slam titles.
In his long and packed career, Federer also spent a record 237 consecutive weeks at the top of the rankings between 2004 and 2008. Before his last match, he said that his longevity at the top is something he can be proud of.
“I was known to be quite erratic early in my career. If you remember, I was known to be erratic. To then become one of the most consistent players of all time is also a huge shock to me,” Federer told the media on Thursday.
“It was a huge achievement for me personally. People can judge if they think that’s the case too, but for me, it’s something that I really enjoyed and that I was able to stay on top for so long and compete for whatever tournament I’m going into and really take out say : “I wish I could win the championship” for over 15 years.
“I think looking back has a special meaning to me because I always looked up to Michael Schumachers, Tiger Woods, and all the other guys who were so long at the top that I didn’t understand how they did it. Next thing you know, you’re part of that group. And it was a great feeling.”
While both Djokovic and Nadal surpassed Federer’s record for men’s Grand Slam titles, the Swiss remained a crowd favorite due to his elegance and glamor on and off the court.
The 41-year-old’s appearance has been limited in recent years by injuries, having undergone multiple knee surgeries in the past few years, and his recent loss in straight sets to Hubert Hurkacz in last year’s Wimbledon quarter-final.
He said he still plans to return to the sport next year, two months before deciding to retire.
Federer said he had to get permission from Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg and tournament organizers to play in just one doubles match in the Laver Cup – which sees teams from Europe and the rest of the world face off in nine singles and three doubles matches over three days.
A very special play with Rafa [Nadal]I feel really different, you know? “Also, just go out on the field and get a chance to play with the likes of Rafa or Novak,” Federer said in a news conference on Thursday. [Djokovic] Also in the past it was a great experience for me, so to be able to do it again, I’m sure it will be great.”
Nadal said at Thursday’s press conference that he was “very excited” for Friday’s doubles match.
“After all the wonderful things we share together on and off the field, [to] “To be a part of this historic moment, it will be a wonderful and memorable thing for me,” Nadal said. Good moment and maybe win a match.”
Federer will play on Friday evening in the doubles match before Italian Matteo Berrettini takes the Swiss’s place in Team Europe for the rest of the competition. Federer established the Laver Cup in 2017 and is named after Australian Rod Laver.
And for the man himself, who will undoubtedly receive a champ’s farewell from the beloved fans in London when Jack Sock and Francis Tiafoe take on Nadal, Federer admitted he will miss tennis.
“I love tennis, it’s all about it,” he said. “I will miss the competition, the fans cheering for me or against me.
“They’ve usually been with me all the way, so it was great. I can always travel, so I wouldn’t miss that, but I’d love to go on tour too for the second part of my career with my family – it’s been great.”
He added: “You always want to play forever. I love being on the field, I love playing against players, I love to travel. I never felt it was hard for me – winning and learning from losing – everything was perfect.
“I love my career from every angle. That’s the bitter part [of retiring]. The nice part is that I know everyone has to do this at some point. Everyone has to leave the game. It was a wonderful and wonderful trip. So, I am really grateful.”
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