Roger Federer loses his doubles match with Rafael Nadal, the last of his tennis career

This day, this match, had to come naturally for Roger Federer and for tennis, as it inevitably has to come for any athlete in any sport.

Federer said goodbye to the last match on Friday night before he starts retirement At the age of 41 after a stellar career that included 20 Grand Slam titles and a role as a statesman. He ended his days as a professional player with a loss in doubles with his long-time rival Rafael Nadal at Team Europe’s Laver Cup against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World.

Switzerland’s Roger Federer reacts after playing his final doubles match with Spain’s Rafael Nadal of Team Europe at the 2022 Laver Cup on September 24, 2022 at the O2 Arena in London.

GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

The truth is that the winners, the stats and the score — 4-6, 7-6 (2), 11-9 — didn’t matter and everyone was completely beside the point. After all, it was about the farewell itself. Or better yet plural farewells: Federer to tennis, fans, competitors and colleagues. And of course, the farewell of all these units with Federer.

When the match, and with it his time in professional tennis, ended, Federer hugged Nadal, then Tiafoe and Sock. And then Federer started to cry as he went to greet the other members of Team Europe. As applause and cheers erupted from the stands, Federer put his hands on his hips, his chest heaving. He then mouthed, “Thank you,” while applauding directly at the spectators who had chanted, “Let’s go, Roger! Let’s go!” in the final moments of the match, which lasted over two hours and ended at around 12:30 p.m

The Swiss star announced last week that the three-day singles event, founded by his fund manager, would be his last event before retirement, and then made it clear that the doubles would be his final match. Her surgically repaired right knee – the last of three operations shortly after losing in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in July 2021, which will be her last official singles match – will not allow her to continue.

“For me personally, it was sad at the first moment when I came to the conclusion that it was the best decision,” Federer said in an interview with The Associated Press this week about his emotions when he realized it was time to go. . “I held it at first, then I fought it. But I felt the pain.”

A few hours before Friday’s match, Federer tweeted: “I’ve done this thousands of times, but this feels different. Thanks to everyone who comes tonight.”

It was poetic that Federer ended things by sharing the court with Nadal, who was often an on-court nemesis but became an off-court friend.

Before Federer, Pete Sampras’ mark for most major tennis championships by a man was 14. Federer blew past that with eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the US Open and one at the French Open.

His impressive resume includes a total of 103 career singles titles, 310 weeks at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a Davis Cup title and Olympic medals. In addition to his elegant and efficient court, Federer was considered a tennis statesman whose immense popularity helped attract fans to the sport.