Roger Federer is retiring from professional tennis aged 41 after a series of knee surgeries, capping a career in which he won 20 Grand Slam titles, finished five seasons at number one and helped create a golden era in men’s tennis with his rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Federer released what he called a ‘bittersweet decision’ via written statement and audio clip on Thursday, less than a week after 23-time major champion Serena Williams played what is expected to be the final game of her career.
Combined, the outings of two of the greatest athletes in the history of their sport represent a significant turning point.
“As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. I worked hard to get back to full competitive form,” said Federer, who is at home in Switzerland. “But I also know the capabilities and the limits of my body, and the message it has given me these last weather has been clear.”
Federer hasn’t competed anywhere since Wimbledon in July 2021, and so, in that sense, his news isn’t all that surprising.
But he appeared at an event marking the 100th anniversary of center court at the All England Club last July and said he hoped to return to play there “one more time”.
He had also said he would return to the tournament in his home country at the Swiss Indoors in October.
In Thursday’s announcement, Federer said his farewell event would be the Laver Cup in London next week. It is a team event organized by its management company.
“I knew a few weeks ago that his rehabilitation with his knee was not going as well as he had hoped. A few weeks after Wimbledon he informed me that the knee was not responding as well as it should and that he was thinking about finding a way to end his career,” said Tony Godsick, Federer’s agent since 2005, in a telephone interview on Thursday. .
“I had suggested to him years ago that he should quit. Few tennis players of his level reach their forties. But he was always interested in challenging himself,” Godsick said. “And at the end of the day, after more than 1,500 matches, the tires have finally worn out. And he has things to do in his next stage.
Federer and his wife, Mirka – also a tennis player; they met as athletes at the Olympics – have two sets of twins, 13-year-old girls and 8-year-old boys.
Federer leaves the sport with a total of 103 tour-level titles on his substantial resume and 1,251 singles match wins, both behind Jimmy Connors in the Open era, which began in 1968. Federer’s records include being the oldest No. 1 in ATP Rankings history – he returned to the top spot aged 36 in 2018 – and most consecutive weeks there (his total weeks were eclipsed by Djokovic ).
The dominance displayed by Federer at the height of his powers is unmatched, including reaching 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals, winning eight, from 2005 to 2007, a run that also stretched to 18 of 19 major finals in 2010.
In a sport where changing surfaces and other conditions can make even the best players happy with a performance here or there in the second week of a Slam, Federer has compiled streaks of 36 straight quarter-finals and 23 semis. -consecutive finals from 2004 to 2013. .
“Roger Federer is a champion of a champion. He has the most complete game of his generation and has captured the hearts of sports fans around the world with incredible speed on the court and a powerful tennis spirit,” said Billie Jean King, Hall of Famer. “He had a historic career with memories that will live on and on.
When Federer won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, the men’s record for most major trophies was held by Pete Sampras, who won his 14th at the US Open the year before in what happened turned out to be the American’s last game. career.
Federer would go on to blow well beyond that, finishing with 20 winning eight championships at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the US Open and one at the French Open. His 2009 trophy at Roland Garros allowed Federer to complete a career Grand Slam.
His serve, forehand, footwork and attacking style will be remembered forever. His matches against young rivals Nadal, 36, and Djokovic, 35, were also unforgettable, both of whom equaled and then surpassed Federer’s Slam tally and still win titles in the sport’s four biggest tournaments. .
“I wish that day had never come,” Nadal said. “It’s a sad day for me personally and for athletes around the world. I told you when we spoke and now it’s here. It was a pleasure but also an honor and a privilege to share all these years with you, to live so many incredible moments on and off the pitch.
Nadal now leads the men’s major league tally with 22, one ahead of Djokovic.
“I had the chance to play so many epic matches that I will never forget,” Federer said in Thursday’s announcement.
Addressing his “competitors on the court” – though not by name – he wrote: “We pushed each other and together we took tennis to new levels.”
Federer’s last match was on July 7, 2021, when he lost on Center Court in the Wimbledon quarter-finals to Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-0.
Shortly after, Federer underwent surgery to repair damage to his meniscus and cartilage in his right knee – his third operation on that knee in the space of a year and a half.
“Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever imagined,” Federer said Thursday, “and now I have to recognize when it’s time to end my competitive career.”