Roger Federer appears in court for the last time as his legendary career draws to a close

After 24 years of excellence on the court, Federer will retire as one of the finest to ever grace the sport, loved by both competitors and fans alike.

And ahead of his final competitive appearance, some of his toughest opponents over the years, whom he’s beaten and – more rarely – lost too, paid tribute to him.

“He has a lot of sports fans to start following tennis,” three-time Grand Slam winner Andy Murray told CNN Sport. “He’s one of the most popular athletes in all of sports because of the way he handles his business on and off the court and yes he’s going to leave a big void and tennis will definitely help him. to lack.”

Twenty-one-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic echoed Murray’s sentiment, highlighting Federer’s wider impact. “As a tennis fan, not just as a tennis rival and player, I am grateful for everything he has done for our sport.

“He got so much attention, positive attention for our sport on and off the court and got a lot of other sports fans to watch tennis, so his contribution was huge. His impact 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’m sure his iconic career will live on for a very long time and will be remembered in the most positive way for many people.”

Although he hasn’t been able to play as much as he would have liked in recent years, Federer’s presence has made itself felt.

After making his Tour debut in 1998, he became one of tennis’ most dominant players for more than two decades, setting records for Tour wins and men’s Grand Slam singles titles.

During 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 ahead of his final match, he said his longevity at the top was something he was proud of. .

Federer plays a backhand in the quarter-finals of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
“I was famous for being quite erratic at the start of my career. If you remember, I was famous for not being so consistent. To then become one of the most consistent players of all time is also a shock. for me,” Federer told the media on Thursday.

“It was a big accomplishment for me, personally. People can judge if they think that’s the case too, but for me, it’s something that I really enjoyed and was able to stick with. at the top for so long and compete for any tournament, I would participate and really go out there and say, ‘I hope I can win the tournament,’ for over 15 years.

“I think looking back has a special meaning for me because I always looked at the Michael Schumachers, Tiger Woods, all the other guys who were at the top for so long that I couldn’t figure out how they did it. you know, you’re part of this group, and it’s been a great feeling.”

While Djokovic and Nadal both surpassed Federer’s record for men’s Grand Slam singles titles, the Swiss remained a fan favorite due to his elegance and grace on and off the court.

The 41-year-old’s appearances have been limited in recent years due to injuries, having to undergo several knee surgeries in recent years and his last outing a straight-set loss to Hubert Hurkacz in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. ‘last year.

He said he had always planned to return to the sport next year just two months ago before making the decision to retire.

Federer said he needs to get permission from European team captain Björn Borg and tournament organizers to play in a single doubles match at the Laver Cup – which sees teams from Europe and the rest of the world s face off in nine singles. and three doubles matches in three days.

Federer poses with Nadal, Djokovic and Murray after a training session ahead of the 2022 Laver Cup.

“Super special to play with Rafa [Nadal]feels really different, you know? Federer said at the press conference on Thursday. [Djokovic] also in the past has been an amazing experience for me, so to be able to do it once again, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful.”

Nadal said at the press conference on Thursday that he was “super excited” for Friday’s doubles match.

“After all the amazing things we share together on and off the pitch, [to] to be part of this historic moment, it’s going to be something yeah, amazing and unforgettable for me,” Nadal said, “and yes, super excited, I hope I can have a good time, play at a decent level and I hope that together we can create a good time and maybe win a match.”

Federer will play Friday night in the doubles match before Italy’s Matteo Berrettini takes the Swiss’ place in the European squad for the remainder 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 farewell from the cheering London crowd when he takes on Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe with Nadal, Federer admitted he will miss tennis.

Federer takes a selfie with his Team Europe teammates ahead of the 2022 Laver Cup.
“I love tennis, anything to do with it,” he said. “I will miss the competition, fans cheering me on or against me.

“They’ve always been with me all the way, so it’s been great. I can still travel, so I won’t miss it, but I also like to go on tour in the second part of my career with my family – it was wonderful.”

He added: “You always want to play forever. I love being on the pitch, I love playing against guys and I love traveling. I never really felt like it was that hard for me to win, to learn by losing — everything was 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 has to quit the game. It’s been a big, big trip. For that, I’m really grateful.”

CNN’s George Ramsay contributed to this report.

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