Federer At Peace With His Retirement Decision

Roger Federer (photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, September 22, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

When Roger Federer steps out on the O2 Arena indoor hard court at the Laver Cup Friday evening in London, the final match of his career will take place in a one-night-only doubles appearance, in which he will team up with his longtime rival – and friend – Rafael Nadal.

“I just thought it was very fitting,” Federer said during a Wednesday news conference, relaxed and calm – and in control of his emotions – in which he spoke of finishing his career in London among friends and rivals. London is a city Federer has won a record eight Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles titles and it seems appropriate he will share the sold-out O2 Arena Centre Court with Nadal in a reprise of their “Fedal” doubles pairing for Team Europe. Win or lose – and it really doesn’t matter – no doubt, it will be an epic farewell.

Dressed in a blue blazer and white-collared polo shirt, Federer told reporters that he had known for several months that his career as a Grand Slam singles champion was done – like it or not. The longer he rehabilitated – and he had been away from the ATP Tour for 14 months – the more difficult it was getting for the 20-time major champion to get back to where he was ready to return to the tour after multiple knee surgeries.

“At some point you sit down and go, OK, we are at an intersection here, a crossroad, and you have to take a turn,” Federer explained. “Which way is it?

“I was not willing to go in the direction of, let’s risk it all. I’m not ready for that.”

Federer said that he “stopped believing” he could rehabilitate his latest knee injury enough to continue playing at a level he would accept.

“I know my limitations,” Federer admitted.

How will he perform on Friday evening in front of thousands of fans?

“Obviously, I’m nervous going in, because I haven’t played in so long. I hope it can be somewhat competitive.”

Federer said teaming with Nadal, who surpassed him with 22 Grand Slam singles titles of his own, could be “obviously a special moment.”

“No doubt, I think it could be quite a unique situation, if it were to happen,” the Swiss star said. Friday’s lineup, officially announced on Thursday, confirmed that Federer and Nadal will team against Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe in the final match of the evening. “For as long as we battled together to having always this respect for one another, the families, our coaching teams, we always got along really well.

“For us as well to go through a career that we both have had and to come out on the other side and being able to have a nice relationship I think is maybe a great message as well to not just tennis but sports and maybe even beyond. For that reason, I think it would be great.”

After playing doubles, Federer will be replaced in the singles lineup by alternate Matteo Berrettini. While the competition rules of the Laver Cup require players to compete in at least one singles match, Federer’s opting out required approval of both Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, the Team Europe and Team World team captains, respectively, as well as tournament and ATP Tour officials, as the Laver Cup is a tour event.

Regardless of what happens Friday, Federer leaves behind an amazing career that includes 20 Grand Slam titles and 103 total ATP singles titles, 310 weeks as the No. 1-ranked player in the world (including 237 consecutive weeks) – and he competed in over 1,500 tour-level matches without ever retiring from a match.

“The bitterness, you always want to play forever. I love being out on court. I love playing against the guys,” Federer said. “I love traveling. I never really felt like it was that hard for me too, of winning, learn from losing, it was all perfect. I love my career from every angle. That’s the bitter part.

“The sweet part was that I know everybody has to do it at one point. Everybody has to leave the game. It’s been a great, great journey. For that, I’m really grateful.”

As Federer’s press conference (conducted in English, French and Swiss-German) neared its conclusion, he was asked whether it bothers him where he stands in the greatest-of-all-time debate between him, Nadal and Novak Djokovic, or was he just proud that he was a trail blazer who helped initiate the current golden era of tennis.

“I’m definitely very proud and very happy where I sit,” the 41-year-old Federer said. “One of my big moments of course was winning my 15th slam at Wimbledon [in 2009], you know, when Pete [Sampras] was sitting there. Anything after that was a bonus. That was the record, you know, and then of course it was other records along the way.

“But then of course nowadays, I think, and it will only increase, players will want to chase records. It’s true at some point I kind of probably did as well, but not the first years until I got closer to Pete’s record.

“For me, it was about how did I manage my schedule, was I happy on and off the court, did I like my life on the tour? And I did. I think I had the best of times. Obviously, the last few years have been what they have been, but I’m very happy I was able to win another five slams from 15 on. For me it was incredible. Then I made it to over 100 titles, and all that stuff has been fantastic. Then just my longevity is something I’m very proud of.

“Don’t need all the records to be happy; I tell you that.”

Federer stood and there was applause as he walked out of the interview room. He was at peace with himself.

Laver Cup notes

Friday’s Laver Cup lineup was announced Thursday. As expected, Roger Federer will team with Rafael Nadal in doubles for Team Europe against Team World’s Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe. The day session will begin with Casper Ruud facing Sock followed by Stefanos Tsitsipas against Diego Schwartzman. Andy Murray will play Alex de Minaur to begin the evening session followed by the doubles spotlight.