The symbol is strong. At 41, Roger Federer will play his last match at the Laver Cup in London this Friday, September 23. The Swiss, who marked the history of the little yellow ball with his talent and elegance with twenty Grand Slam titles in singles, chose to end his career in doubles, with his biggest rival, Rafael Nadal, as his partner. (36 years). Wounded in the right knee, the ex-world number one finally had to come to terms with this announcement, on September 15, with a heavy heart. After fourteen months of inactivity, the Basel, who had not played in competition since his elimination in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon 2021, could no longer delay the deadline.
In almost twenty-five years of career, the legend with 103 trophies for 157 disputed finals, including 31 in Grand Slam, wrote one of the most beautiful pages in the history of tennis by also winning six Masters, a Davis Cup and even a Olympic gold medal (in doubles with Stan Wawrinka). ” I was gifted with a gift for playing tennis and raised it to a level I never could have imagined and for far longer than I thought possible. “, Underlines the player, installed for 310 weeks in the first place in the world, a record then raised to 373 by Novak Djokovic in 2021.
But unlike the Borg, Connors, Sampras or Nadal, the one who was born on August 8, 1981 in Basel, of a Swiss father and a South African mother of French and Dutch ancestry, was unable to express immediately his talent at the highest level. Noted for his racquet throws and his difficulty in channeling his energy, this player with an apparently ordinary physique (1.85 m), but endowed in reality with exceptional qualities of speed and endurance, must wait until his sixth year on the circuit, at almost twenty-three years old, to lift his first major trophy, at Wimbledon in 2003. It was the click. In the space of four seasons, from 2004 to 2007, he won no less than 11 Grand Slam tournaments, leaving only crumbs to Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick. In total, the Swiss will bring his collection to eight Wimbledons, six Australian Opens, five US Opens and one Roland-Garros.
But to conquer without danger, one triumphs without glory. And Roger Federer wouldn’t be the legend he’s become without younger Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who will start to join in the feast. Everyone remembers the epic finals of Wimbledon 2007 then 2008 against Mallorca. Winner in 5 sets (7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2) the first year, the Swiss then lost 4-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 , 7-9, after 4:48 of a fight completed by nightfall, in what is considered one of the greatest matches of all time. The Iberian, number two in the world, has just defeated the Swiss, number one, in his London garden. The two players will meet a total of 40 times (24 wins to 16 for the Spaniard).
Admirer of his rival, to whom he quickly became close, the one who won Roland-Garros fourteen times is full of praise for the aesthetics of his game, which helped to forge his legend. ” He has a perfect serve, a perfect volley, a more than perfect forehand, a perfect one-handed backhand… And on top of that, he is very fast. Everything is perfect with him “. And to add: He is one of, if not the most important player of my career. »
Novak Djokovic, also present in London in the European Laver Cup team, but in singles, has never shared the same closeness with his two competitors even if he has always shown his respect. Twenty-four hours after the announcement of the Basel’s retirement, he finally joined the many tributes. ” Roger, it’s difficult to live this and to put into words all that we shared in this sport together, he wrote on his Instagram account. (…) Your career has set the tone for what it means to achieve excellence and dominate with integrity and composure.. Fifty times, the Serb and the Swiss have fought magnificent battles with a slight advantage to the player from the Balkans (27 successes in total including 11 victories to six in Grand Slam). Together, they also played in 2019 the longest final in Wimbledon history (4:57), where Federer passed two match points from his 21st Major.
But Roger Federer is not only gifted on the pitch, he also knows how to take advantage of his image and control it. Her long hair and ill-groomed look from the start of her career quickly gave way, after her meeting with Mirka Vavrinec, a former Swiss player of Slovak origin met at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, who would become the mother of her four children, to a smooth, well-groomed profile. Luxury companies (Rolex with whom he has forged a lifelong partnership, Mercedes-Benz, Moet & Chandon, etc.) are scrambling to attach their names to his, synonymous with high-end positioning. In 2019, 93% of his income, estimated at $86 million, according to the business magazine Forbes, came from his sponsors, even as the former world number one was becoming increasingly rare on the courts with his knee injury.
Polyglot (he speaks Swiss-German, German, English and French), at the head of a foundation which finances educational projects for children in southern Africa and Switzerland, Federer also knows how to put on the clothes of an entrepreneur to promote his interests. His choice to play his last match with Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup obviously owes nothing to chance… Creator of this annual competition, without much sporting legitimacy, the opportunity was too good, for the former world number one, to highlight this 5 e edition and to take the lead in the Davis Cup, which is losing momentum with its new formula.
Absent from the courts for many months, Roger Federer remains the number one in the hearts of tennis fans around the world and for a long time. Even beaten in the number of major titles (22 for Nadal and 21 for Djokovic), his aura, his simplicity and his kindness, recognized by all those who have worked with him from near or far on the circuit, ensure him an incredible popularity. In a message posted on Twitter, Rafael Nadal summarizes the phenomenon quite well: It has been a pleasure but also an honor and a privilege to share all these years with you, but also to experience so many fantastic moments on and off the courts. After all, maybe that’s what being a legend is.