As the world watched, the curtain fell on Roger Federer’s historic career in Friday night’s Laver Cup. In front of an electric crowd, the Swiss maestro teamed up with longtime rival and friend Rafael Nadal to get his final shots at The O2 in London.
The former world No. 1 looked sharply over the net, firing his seemingly effortless foundations across the field during the two-hour and 16-minute clash. However, he was ultimately unable to take the 1,382nd win of his career in singles and doubles, falling to Team World pair Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe.
The Americans gathered from a set-down to beat their legendary opponents 4-6, 7-6(2), 11-9, leaving the Laver Cup at 2-2 after the first day.
“We’re going to get through this somehow, right? Right?” Federer said in a cracked voice during his court interview. “I’m happy, I’m not sad. It feels great to be here and I’ve enjoyed tying my shoes one more time. Everything was the last time. The match was great, I couldn’t be happier. It was great. “
Roger Federer bids farewell to fans at The O2.” style=”width: 100%;” />
Photo Credits: Getty Images
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Federer was overcome with emotion immediately after the game. He hugged teammate Nadal and waved to the crowd as he embraced the roar of his fans for the last time.
The Swiss star then walked to his seat for the last time, where he stood next to his teammates and greeted the packed crowd. Federer couldn’t contain his emotion as he addressed the arena during his on-court interview, and burst into tears as he shared his last words of thanks and gratitude with his family, team and supporters.
“Playing with Rafa on the same team and the guys, everyone here, all the legends – Rocket, Edberg, Stefan – thank you,” said Federer, who was joined on the track by his parents, wife Mirka and their four children. “I didn’t want it to feel lonely out there. It felt lonely for a second when they told me to go out… but to say goodbye to a team, I always felt I was a team player at heart. Singles doesn’t really do that but I’ve had a team that traveled the world with me it’s been great with them so thank you to everyone who made it work for so many years.
“And then of course being on the team with Andy, Thomas, Novak, Matteo, Cam, Stefanos, Rafa and Casper… and also the other team, you guys are incredible. It was a pleasure to play all these Laver Cups. “
“It feels like a party to me. I wanted to feel that way at the end, and it’s exactly what I was hoping for, so thank you.”
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The former world No. 1 leaves the sport as a legend. He won 103 tour-level titles and was #1 in the Pepperstone ATP rankings for 310 weeks. Federer first faced Nadal in 2004 at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami. They competed against each other 39 more times in 24 finals over the years.
Having established a special relationship, it was fitting for Federer to end his career alongside the Spaniard as ‘Big Four’ stars Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray cheered them on from the sidelines. His parents, wife Mirka and children also watched the court.
“Should we go there?” he joked when asked about his family. “I’ve done well so far. At least I can talk. In my view, I could never talk, so I’m much better.
“My wife supported me so much. She could have stopped me for a long time, but she didn’t. She kept me going and let me play. It’s great. Thank you.”
In an entertaining match, Federer and Nadal were in a good mood all the time, smiling and entertaining the crowd with their dynamic shotmaking. During the third game of the first set, the Swiss star fired a forehand through a hole in the net. Despite Team World getting the point, the Swiss-Spanish tandem shared a smile as they made their way back to the baseline.
While the crowd cheered, Federer and Nadal played with freedom, adjusting the intensity of the Americans in a series of battles to win the first set. After Sock and Tiafoe won the second set, a Match Tie break was left to decide Federer’s final clash. With the crowd on their feet, it was the Americans who found a way and saved one match point on 8/9 to beat a thrilling tiebreaker.