Roger Federer announced that his retirement from competitive tennis last week will take place at his beloved Laver Cup. He’s set to play doubles with his great rival and friend, Rafael Nadal, on Friday night. It’s a ‘dream’ farewell celebration, with a few tickets now spiking over 4,000 percent!
It’s the day so many tennis fans have been dreading for so long, myself included: the day that Roger Federer will leave the game. For decades, the ‘Swiss Maestro’ has defined excellence in tennis. The 41-year-old wizard has elevated the sport, has been responsible for its enormous growth in popularity, and inspired generations of players to take up a racquet. Federer was the trailblazer for the golden age of tennis, ushering in the greatest era of athletic titans with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic alongside him.
Roger Federer’s contribution to the sport of tennis has always been so much more than his athletic prowess and shot-making precision. With his all-around game, he’s a bridge to the past and the future. The new world No. 1 and recent U.S. Open winner, Carlos Alcaraz — who calls Roger his idol — lamented that he will never get the chance to play him competitively, tweeting out a broken heart after the Swiss player’s announcement.
In his final tournament press conference on Wednesday, Roger Federer graciously said that the sport is in good hands with talents such as 19-year-old Alcaraz.
“Yes, of course, it’s disappointing I was never able to play against him,” Federer said in the presser. “Of course I watched closely what he did at the U.S. Open and throughout the year. It’s been fantastic.
“I always said there will be always new superstars in the game, and he’s one of them. The game is bright.”
Alcaraz’s rise — culminating in his maiden slam at Flushing Meadows a few weeks ago — coincided during Roger Federer’s difficult recovery from his third knee surgery. Fed’s last competitive match was the 2021 Wimbledon quarters, where he lost to Hubert Hurkacz. Federer initially had hoped to be competitively ready to play in his home county tournament in Basel and perhaps a dream run at Wimbledon in 2023, but a recent knee scan proved disappointing, prompting the “bittersweet decision.”
“At some point you sit down and go: ‘OK, we are at an intersection here, at a crossroad, and you have to take a turn. Which way is it?’ I was not willing to go into the direction of: ‘Let’s risk it all.’ I’m not ready for that.”
A place that has special meaning for The Maestro
The Laver Cup will take place at the O2 arena in London, where the venue and the locale have special meaning for the 20-time Grand Slam champion. The tennis legend won two of his ATP finals at the arena, and London served as the backdrop for the maiden title that launched his storied career, leading to eight trophies hoisted at the All England Club. Having his swan song match take place at the Laver Cup — a brainchild of the sports icon and managed by his company, Team8 — is a fitting last act of a glorious run.
“I’m happy to do it here in London. After thinking about it, this city has been special to me, maybe the most special place with Wimbledon down the road and here at The 02 having played and qualified here for so many years. I just thought it was very fitting. I’ve always enjoyed the crowds here as well. I think Bjorn Borg on the bench with me for my final game resonated in a big way with me.”
Wimbledon also provided the landscape for what many consider the greatest match ever played: the epic 2008 final between Federer and Rafa that gave the Spaniard his first SW19 win. The once-bitter rivals have since developed a mutual admiration, with Federer leveling the odds a bit in their head-to-head with his magical comeback run in 2017 and 2018. Nadal, on his part, now sits on top of the slam mountain with a record 22 after an unprecedented race of the Big Three reigning with 20 titles for the latter part of their dominance. This tennis dynasty started with Fed beating the previous record of 14 won by Pete Sampras.
A celebration of Fedal
Federer and Nadal in particular have transcended their fierce competitiveness into something far greater than sport: a captivating friendship that has tapped into the love of the game and proved intoxicating for fans (known affectionately as “Fedal”). Their friendship also created one of the greatest moments in sports history when the two teamed up at the 2017 Laver Cup.
“So here I am trying to prepare for one last doubles. We will see who it is with,” said Federer.
“I’m nervous going in because I haven’t played in so long. I hope I can be somewhat competitive.
I think I can play at an acceptable level. Playing with Rafa would be an absolute dream,” Federer continued in the press conference.
On Thursday, to everyone’s delight, Laver Cup announced that indeed the two legends will close out the first night with a doubles match.
It’s not a funeral, it’s a party!
Federer is known for his optimism and positive spirit, traits that have endeared him to fans worldwide. Always a class act, Federer chose the Laver Cup to ensure that it was a communal affair; a real love match for his fans and the peers of the sport he has given so much to.
“Having all the other guys around just felt like I wasn’t going to be lonely announcing my retirement. Not that I wanted to hijack this event, but I always feel sorry for players who sometimes retire on the tour and say, ‘Ok, I’ll play one more match’ and then one point, you lose, and there you stand all alone.
Obviously, 99 percent of the time, you will lose at one point because only one guy can win a tournament. It just felt like this works really well here, but I always wanted to keep the integrity of the event alive, that’s why I had a lot of conversations with everybody.”
For the last two decades, Roger Federer has been the face of tennis. He’s been the highest-earning athlete and brought legions of fans to the game. Overall, worldwide tennis revenue quadrupled during his tenure, and the global audience for tennis increased dramatically. When the Swiss champion began, tennis was in a chaotic, shambled state that, under Federer’s tutelage, became a passionate, cultivated fandom.
Put simply, Roger Federer loved playing tennis, and new and old fans to the sport loved watching him. The celebrated champion would like to stay involved in some capacity.
“I just want to let the fans know that I won’t be a ghost,” Federer said in London.
“It’s funny, I talked about [Team Europe captain] Bjorn Borg before, and I don’t think he returned to Wimbledon for 25 years [after he retired].
Totally acceptable — his life, his reasons. I don’t think I’ll be that guy.
Tennis has given me too much, I’ve been around the game for too long, fallen in love with too many things.
I love seeing people again and that is what I want to let the fans know — you will see me again. In what capacity, I don’t know. I still have to think about it a little bit.”
Like his storied career, Roger Federer will most assuredly carve out a future role in the sport where he has been such a vital and essential statesman and ambassador.
In the meantime, fans will have one more chance to watch his elegant, breathtaking skills on display at the Laver Cup this weekend, being broadcast on the Tennis Channel and Amazon Prime. If you want in-person tickets, best of luck: as of Wednesday, re-sale tickets were going for tens of thousands, with even one report saying $414,000.