In tears, Roger Federer bids farewell to tennis in London

History will not remember the outcome of 1,750e and Roger Federer’s last pro match, but the images aren’t going away anytime soon. From those long minutes when, after the stroke of midnight struck by Big Ben on Friday, September 23, we saw the Swiss sharing endless sobs with Rafael Nadal, who was sitting by his side.

After a quarter of a century on the circuit, the master of ceremonies imagined the ideal casting as a grand finale, in London: to play a final double with the Spaniard, eighteen years after the first of their 40 face-to-face game. .face. For decoration? “His” Laver Cup, the exhibition he launched in 2017 on the model of the Ryder Cup in golf, where, for three days, the best players in Europe will challenge not only the Americans, but “the whole world “.

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Like Björn Borg and John McEnroe, the two captains of the competition, the stylistic difference between right-handers and left-handers will be lost in the history of the game. cold blood works for Federer. The display of strength while the biceps, the tireless work and the nerves of a warrior for Nadal.

Two rivals that have become “friends” which ends with teammates, the conclusion is perfect and the marketing coup too. For two days, the bromance was skillfully performed, both players exchanged sweet words and knowing smiles in front of the goals and the cameras. “He will be the boss on Friday”warned the Swiss the other day. “One of the players, if not THE most important player of my career”, the Majorcan retaliated against him. Saturday morning, the eyes of the youngest (36 years old) are still red: “Being part of this historic moment for our sport is difficult to handle and full of emotions. Roger leaving the circuit, it’s a big part of my life that evaporates. »

On the night of his jubilee, Roger Federer no longer has the legs to play a singles match, but at the age of 41, the icon showed that he still has a little magic in his racket. Like this surgical forehand whose ball went through the mouse hole by piercing the end of the net band.

“I’m happy, not sad, thank you”

Whatever their loss to the American pair of Jack Sock-Frances Tiafoe, the main thing on Friday was elsewhere. “It was a great trip, if I had to do it again, I would do everything the same way, I’m happy, not sad, thank you”, was able to speak the hero of the night between two hiccups, in front of his entire united clan, some glorious elders (Rod Laver, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier…), his main opponents and 17,500 fans in an O2 Arena won by a tear. collective effusion.

Roger Federer wins, after his last official match, at the O2 Arena in London, September 23, 2022.

The beauty of Providence sees the big story collide with the small story. On Monday, the United Kingdom buried its queen; on Friday, the tennis world said goodbye to its king.

Farewells that Roger Federer does not want to take the form of a “funeral”. The former world No. 1 on the contrary imagined them for a moment “feast”, was never celebrated with the strictest intimacy. He was happy“with Björn Borg on the bench, with all the guys next to it. I always feel sad watching players retire, 90% of the time you lose and you’re on your own. he said on Wednesday in a press conference.

Thursday afternoon, during training, the public felt as if they had jumped into a time machine when members of the “Big 4”, a nickname that emerged in the late 2000s, took the court to qualify. in their greed. On one side of the net, Federer and Nadal, on the other the Serbian Novak Djokovic and the Briton Andy Murray, 66 Grand Slam titles between them. Even the 3,000 British schoolchildren who were invited just screamed “Roger, Roger, Roger”.

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A memory of the idol

In the official store of the Laver Cup, at the entrance of the stadium, the queue is always full on Fridays to return at all costs – literally – a souvenir of the idol. “People are ready to take a lot of money, we have one fan who bought 40 caps, said Kula, one of the supervisors. It’s amazing, but at the same time it’s very exciting to say that we are part of this historic moment. »

Three bundles under his arm and a navy blue cap with the “RF” logo on his head, Riku Takagi left the shop relieved of 350 pounds sterling (about 390 euros), but with many t -shirt, towel and another sweatshirt. . The 21-year-old Japanese boy, a fan of “Rodgeur” ​​​​​​​​​​​​​since he was 10, arrived especially from Tokyo the other day. In May, he paid 2,500 euros to buy tickets for three days. “These are the memories that last forever,” he justified.

In the square, that morning, the fan-zone was largely invested despite a sad time, according to the mood of the day among the supporters in the first hour. Missed the last appearance of the “master”? The idea is unthinkable for Gabriela Butler, from Ittenthal (Switzerland), red and white sweatshirt and the same “RF” earrings. On his side, Renée Vorpel and Tani Christians, from Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Antwerp (Belgium), each more than a hundred games as spectators on the clock.

These three members of the self-proclaimed “fans4roger” “official fan club” in Switzerland, tell themselves “shut up” since they found out about their champion’s decision. “We expected this given his age but it was still a shock; last night, when we met, we cried all night, “ Tani said. “He is a class on and off the court, energetic, full of humor”, Gabriela remembered. “When you met him, he gave you the impression that you were important to him,” added Renée, who was hoping for one last dance at Wimbledon.

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Exit through the front door

The main interested party also dreams of an exit through the front door, a final appearance on “his” blessed turf, where he won eight times. Or else a farewell at home in Basel, his hometown (a tournament he won ten times, the 103e and last title of his career).

For a long time he believed that he could make a final “comeback”. At Wimbledon in early July, impeccable suit and tie brushing, the Swiss received the loudest ovation of the list of legends who came to celebrate the centenary on Center Court. “I said on the pitch that I hope to come back one more time and I’m sincere, he said this week. But ten days later, the knee was still in the same stage, I saw no improvement. » A scanner passed shortly after the death knell was rung. “There, I said to myself: OK, I understand. This time it was over. »

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Last Friday, a page in tennis history was turned. But the young retiree has already made an appointment with his fans, in future exhibition tournaments or as a famous guest at the Grand Slam. He made the promise: “I will not be a ghost like Björn Borg. »

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