Roger Federer, the Swiss teenager and one of the generation that dominated tennis for two decades, announced his retirement from tennis on Thursday.
“I’m 41 years old; I’ve played more than 1,500 matches in 24 years,” Federer said in an audio clip posted on social media. “Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever imagined, and now I have to know when it’s time to retire.”
Federer leaves the game with one of the greatest tournament records in its history: 103 Tour singles titles, 20 Grand Slam singles titles, 310 weeks at No. 1 and 6 wins in season-ending tour finals. And perhaps most surprisingly given his long run, he was never forced to stop a match due to injury.
Williams, who turns 41 later this month, has said she is “on the move” away from competition but is on the verge of a comeback after completing her farewell run at this year’s US Open. Federer, who has been plagued by injuries for years, was more forthcoming about his exit, meaning that the Big Three in men’s tennis – Federer’s long-time rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – will soon be reduced to two.
But not before one last hurray brings them together, their aging bodies willing.
Federer has said he will make his final season at the Laver Cup in London next week, an annual team event he managed alone before Nadal emerged and Djokovic shifted the balance of power. .
He had some great victories against them, but also many very embarrassing setbacks. Part of Federer’s enduring appeal comes from his vulnerability: the big matches he loses and the tears he so often sheds in victory and defeat.
“It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world,” Nadal said on Twitter, referring to Federer as a friend and rival and “a privilege to share so many amazing moments on and off the court.”
Federer is scheduled to play in Team Europe with Nadal, Djokovic and English star Andy Murray among the leading players in this special era of the Laver Cup tournament, inspired by the Ryder Cup.
They haven’t covered the world courts with Federer’s grace.
It does not move like a flow. Tracking the baseline, jumping into his signature stroke, jumping inside and outside, his gaze remained on the point of contact after the ball was gone. With his speed and court sense, he had a little more time to work his magic than his peers.
“He made the game a lot easier,” said Paul Annacone, one of his former coaches. “I’ve always felt that he was Picasso with a tennis racket. What I will miss the most is the beauty he brought to the game.”
Federer struggled to control his temper and perfectionism in his youth, repeatedly yelling at coaches (and his parents, Robert and Lynette) and losing some matches he should have won. Over time, he learned to control his temper and became a model of calmness and composure under pressure with rare exceptions.
It was a remarkable turnaround and gave Federer the wide reach and appeal he and his mentors had cultivated.
To date, he has earned more than $130 million in prize money, but that figure is dwarfed by his off-court earnings. He became the first tennis player to earn more than $1 billion through a wide portfolio of sponsors. He remains the highest-paid tennis player in the last three seasons, whether or not he played a bit, and was the highest-paid athlete in 2020, according to Forbes.
Federer has indicated that he will continue to play some, perhaps in exhibitions. But the sport had a long view of Federer’s life due to knee problems.
He has missed more than a year of the 2020 and 2021 seasons and has not played in the past 14 months.
“I’ve worked hard to get back to a full season, but I know my body’s capabilities and limits, and the message he’s been sending to me lately is clear,” Federer said.
The son of a Swiss father and a South African mother, Federer was born in Basel, Switzerland in 1981. He spent his early years playing many sports and was considered a promising soccer player in particular. He chose tennis after working with Australian player Peter Carter, who earned his income as a tour-level player by teaching him.
Carter and Federer bonded as he helped the boy develop his elegant game, including his often-floating forehand and versatile, one-handed backhand.
At 14, Federer boarded a plane from Basel to Eklubnes, Switzerland and moved to the national training center in the French-speaking part of the country.
Federer was teased by his peers for his poor French and struggled at school, but he credits the experience – and the challenge – as key to his eventual success.
His professional debut at Wimbledon came in 2001, when he upset seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round. Still, Federer struggled with nerve and technique, and in
Federer was heartbroken but channeled his grief into trying to become the champion he believed Carter could be.
Those who know Federer well have seen a big change in him. The following year, in 2003, he won his first major singles at Wimbledon, displaying all the tools on a Swiss army knife: delighting the crowd and demolishing the opposition. He defeated another American talent in the semi-finals, Andy Roddick, and Australian Mark Phillips in the final.
Although Roddick won the US Open in September and quickly rose to world No. 1, this is Federer’s era. In the year To start the 2004 season, he won the Australian Open, took the top spot in the rankings and set a cruising speed.
In the year He won three Grand Slam singles titles in 2004, 2006 and 2007. The only major setback was the French Open, where Nadal emerged, nearly five years old and practically untouchable on the red clay of Roland Garros.
Nadal finally put Federer on the grass in the 2008 Wimbledon final, one of the most memorable matches in tennis history, and comforted a tearful Federer in the 2009 Australian Open final at the awards ceremony.
Federer won his first and only French Open in 2009 after Nadal was upset by Robin Soderling in the fourth round and four weeks later defeated Roddick to win the Wimbledon title. That victory allowed Federer to break Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles.
Federer’s twin daughters were born shortly after that Wimbledon victory, but Federer and his wife Mirka soon returned to the circuit and later traveled with their twins.
Federer calls Mirka “my rock” and her support – and logistical wizardry – along with the creative work of his fitness coach Pier Paganini, are fundamental to Federer’s longevity.
In his retirement announcement, Federer said: “Even when she was more than 8 months pregnant, she has watched countless matches and endured more than 20 years on the road with my team.
In the year After his French Open victory in 2009, he began to field requests for retirement, but played for more than a decade, often with great success.
Mirka encouraged Federer to return in 2017 after his first forced retirement from the game.
In January 2016, while taking a bath for his daughters, he felt a click in his left knee and underwent surgery soon after. He returned in the spring, but ended his season after losing at Wimbledon and spent six months consolidating his knee.
In the year It returned in 2017 for a revamp. He won the Australian Open by defeating Nadal in the final and then won Wimbledon for the 8th time, taking that wave to another level in 2018 at the Australian Open. The following month, the 36-year-old became No. 1 in the ATP rankings.
That last major victory tied the men’s record with 20 Grand Slam singles titles, but Federer would not hold it for long. But he had one more good chance to add to his tally: two match points of his own against Djokovic in the fifth set of the 2019 Wimbledon final.
But Djokovic won instead, and as Federer approaches retirement, Nadal holds the record for singles wins at 22 Grand Slams, with Djokovic trailing at 21.
Federer will remain in third place on this list, probably for many years. He has a 16-24 record against Nadal and 23-27 against Djokovic in both men’s matches.
Still, Federer certainly showed off his long-distance streak, touching tennis fans around the world for more than 20 years with his shots and play on and off the court.
Although he has made it clear that his tour-level tennis days are over, he has hinted that he intends to continue his role in the sport.
“Finally, back to the tennis game, I love you and I’ll never leave you,” he said.