There was a crowd, spectators and journalists, on July 7, 1998 in Gstaad for the first of 1,527 matches played by tennis hopeful Roger Federer. There were still crowds, despite a late announcement and prohibitive prices, on September 22, 2022 in London, for the last of 1,527 matches for Roger Federer, the tennis legend.
Ironically, one of the most successful players in his sport leaves as he began: with a loss. The inaugural one received from the Argentine Lukas Arnold Ker in the first round of the Swiss Open, like the final suffered together with Rafael Nadal against the American duo Jack Sock/Frances Tiafoe on the first day of the Laver Cup (4-6 7- 6 11- 9), will remain anecdotal. In both cases, the main thing was elsewhere: to see and see Federer again. Discover the phenomenon; Admire him one last time.
a moving emotion
There was only joy and carelessness the first time. All this happened again on Friday night at the O2 Arena, but there were also tears and sometimes moving emotion, when Roger Federer wanted to thank his wife Mirka for her unconditional support. For once, the model wife disagreed, shaking her head, knowing all too well into which tear-soaked valley her Roger was venturing. This did not fail and the retired youngster only barely escaped between great sobs, dragging Rafael Nadal and some of the toughest players in the world in his grief.
They are crying next to each other. Raphael, Roger. Please make it stop. https://t.co/srfP38tGIX
— Olly_Tennis_ (@Olly 🎾🇬🇧)January 23, 2022
A few minutes earlier, however, he had assured: “All day I thought about these things that I was doing for the last time. But I told the players around me: don’t be sad. I’m happy.”
Roger Federer did not hide his desire to appear in the future in exhibition matches, such as the tournaments of legends, aside from the Grand Slams, or others. “I don’t like the idea of disappearing. The fans will see me again, ”he explained in the middle of the week. Therefore, this match is not necessarily the last, and perhaps even the first of his new life, the end of his ambitions is dated July 7, 2021 at Wimbledon. And yet, for him, it was indeed the night of parting. This last match allowed Roger Federer to materialize his departure on the court and not between two visits to the doctor. He was able to say goodbye to his followers and turn the page without frustration or regret.
a very long day
The day had been long. As soon as the doors to the O2 Arena in East London opened, the crowd had come to blacken the forecourt of the performance hall. Many were already wearing “RF” embroidered caps, “Laver Cup” branded Uniqlo jackets, and yet they were sticking to the line that snaked lazily out of the merchandise store.
Also read: In the Laver Cup, tennis also says goodbye to the Big 4
Inside, his hero, his idol, made his first appearance during the presentation of the teams, before the first match (Casper Ruud-Jack Sock, victory for the number two in the world and the first point for Europe). Announced last, but like the others, without any allusion to his postponed status, Federer was of course entitled to a standing ovation, but he tried not to join in. It wasn’t time yet. The ceremony also gave a place of honor to Rod Laver, present at the age of 84.
I’ve done this thousands of times, but this one feels different. Thanks to everyone who’s coming tonight. https://t.co/lmPWTNzjbn
—Roger Federer (@RogerFederer)January 23, 2022
Roger Federer reappeared at the end of the day to train on the outside court, one of the (many) visual finds of this Laver Cup which, if it has not yet convinced of its legitimacy on the ATP calendar, has already revolutionized the tennis scene. codes. This fully glazed court allows the public to get as close as possible to the players, without danger to them. There was a crowd, of course, around the glass cube, so the crowd could only pass, without stopping, in a slow procession that, in front of this transparent sarcophagus, recalled another, no less remembered, a week earlier in London. .
try to smile
Nervousness slowly won over Roger Federer as the hour approached. The tension increased even more when, on the anthracite pitch, Andy Murray and Alex De Minaur, who opened the afternoon session, engaged the room in a 2h28 battle. It was after 10:00 p.m. (11:00 p.m. in Switzerland) when the hero of the evening finally entered the scene, more than an hour late.
Preceded by Rafael Nadal, the Baslerian arrived without a racket, with a closed face, trying to smile despite everything, and forget that he had not played an official match for fourteen months. He remained a spectator for a moment, watching the first bullets pass as if to dodge. He finally intercepted one, a right high volley. He applied as a beginner. The last game of his could begin.
Also read: Roger Federer: “Stopping was no longer in doubt”
The first few blows instantly revived the evaporated magic. Federer’s shot was pure, the gesture chiseled, the ball mute. It only took three or four strokes of the racket to remember why this player had been and would continue to be so special.
This is not enough to make a great match, especially in doubles where good exchanges can be rare, and the evening was engulfed in a warmth that was not unpleasant but not unforgettable either. When changing sides, the entertainment in the stands or on the giant screens tried to pick up the pace a bit. The game provided the solution. Roger Federer saved a break point at 4-4, then Rafael Nadal gave the break and the set in the next game (6-4).
an extra day
Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe broke early in the second set to lead 3-1, but the European veterans slowly recovered and reclaimed the lead (4-3). At 4-4 40-40, Roger Federer still had the satisfaction of landing two very good first serve balls that put his team in an ideal position to finish. At 5-5, his spike saved a break point. When the second round tiebreaker began, it was exactly midnight on this Saturday, September 24. Roger Federer had extended his career one more day.
Maybe it was already late. His legs pushed less on the serve, she moved less well, his arm had less authority. The talent remained. One ace, one low cross volley and Team Europe could hope to win in the super tie break. Roger Federer had a match point on his racket, but his forehand at the end of the crosscourt shot was too low. Two points later, Jack Sock hit him with a backhand, the veteran resisted, the American surprised Nadal with a cross and it was over.