After 24 years of excellence on the court, Federer will retire as one of the best the sport has ever had, beloved by both his competitors and fans.
And for his last competitive appearance, some of his toughest opponents over the years, whom he has beaten and – more often – also lost, have paid their respects.
Twenty-one-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic echoed Murray’s sentiment, highlighting Federer’s wider influence. “As a tennis fan, not only as his rival and tennis player, I am grateful for everything he has done for our sport.
“He brought so much attention, positive attention to our sport on and off the court and brought a lot of other sports fans to watch tennis, so his contribution has been huge. His influence was huge on my own career, I became a better player because of the rivalry I had with him over the years,” Djokovic told CNN Sport. “I am sure that his iconic career will live on for a very long time and will be remembered by many people in the most positive way.”
Although he has not been able to show as much as he would have liked in recent years, Federer’s presence was great.
After making his Tour debut in 1998, he became one of the most dominant tennis players for more than two decades, setting records in Tour wins and men’s grand slam singles titles.
In his long and storied career, Federer also spent a record 237 consecutive weeks at the top of the world rankings between 2004 and 2008. And before his final match, he said his longevity at the top is something he is proud of is up
“That’s been a great achievement for me personally. People can judge whether they think that’s the case, but for me that’s what I’ve really enjoyed and being able to stay at the top for so long and compete for every tournament I would competing and really going out there and saying, ‘I hope I can win the tournament,’ for over 15 years.
While both Djokovic and Nadal have overtaken Federer’s Grand Slam men’s singles record, the Swiss has remained a fan favorite because of his elegance and grace on and off the court.
The 41-year-old’s appearances have been limited by injuries in recent years, he has had to undergo multiple knee surgeries in recent years, and his latest result a straight sets defeat to Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon last year .
He said he was still planning to return to the sport next year as recently as two months ago before he came to the decision to retire.
Federer said he had to get permission from Team Europe captain Björn Borg and tournament organizers to play in just one doubles match at the Laver Cup – which sees teams from Europe and the rest of the world go head-to-head in nine singles and three doubles matches over the course of three days.
“Super special playing with Rafa [Nadal]feels really different, you know?” Federer said at the press conference on Thursday. “Also just walk on the court and have the opportunity to play with the likes of Rafa or Novak [Djokovic] also in the past was a great experience for me, so to be able to do that one more time, I’m sure it will be wonderful.”
Nadal told the press conference on Thursday that he was “super excited” for Friday’s doubles match.
“After all the great things we share together on and off the court, [to] be part of this historic moment, that will be something yes, amazing and unforgettable for me,” said Nadal, “and yes, super excited, I hope I can have a good time, play at a decent level and hopefully together we can create a good moment and maybe win a game.”
Federer will play in the doubles match on Friday night before Italy’s Matteo Berrettini takes the Swiss spot on Team Europe for the rest of the competition. The Laver Cup was founded by Federer in 2017 and is named after Australian great Rod Laver.
And for the man himself, who will no doubt receive a hero’s welcome from the adoring crowd in London when he faces Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe with Nadal, Federer admitted he would miss tennis.
“They’ve been with me most of the time, so it’s been great. I can always travel, so I won’t miss that, but I also love touring in the second part of my career with my family – it’s been wonderful.”
He added: “You always want to play forever. I love being out on the court, I love playing against the boys and I love traveling. I never really felt like it was that hard for me to do – from winning, learning from losing – it was all perfect.
“I love my career from every angle. That’s the bitter part [of retiring]. The sweet part was that I know everyone has to do it at some point. Everyone should leave the game. It’s been a great, great journey. I’m really grateful for that.”
CNN’s George Ramsay contributed to this report.