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Roger Federer bids emotional farewell to doubles defeat alongside Rafael Nadal | Roger Federer

Over the past decade plus, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have thrived no matter the circumstances. They have faced each other in the finals of the biggest tournaments in the world and they gave their best every time, even when the tension was at its most suffocating. Their rivalry, with the rampant popularity it has generated and the level it has displayed, has played a fundamental role in the recent development of men’s tennis.

Yet nothing could have fully prepared them for the feelings they experienced on Friday. After enduring 40 games of the most tense and pressure-filled battles against each other, strangely the best moments of Federer’s career have often been Nadal’s worst, but they stood together on the same side of the net so that they were defeated 4-6. , 7-6(2), 11-9 by Team World’s Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe in the Laver Cup. In the process, one of the greatest sports careers of all time came to an end.

After match point, a visibly emotional Federer spoke to Jim Courier on the court. “I enjoyed tying my boots one more time…the match was great. I couldn’t be happier. It was wonderful. And of course playing with Rafa in the same team and having the guys – everything the world here, all the legends – thank you.

“I didn’t want him to feel alone there,” he added. “It feels like a celebration to me. I wanted it to be like this in the end and that’s exactly what I hoped for. After reflecting on the ‘perfect course’ of his career, Federer paid a tearful tribute to his wife, Mirka. “She could have stopped me a long, long time ago, but she didn’t. She supported me and let me play. It’s amazing. Thank you.”

It was an emotional evening from the start. Federer and Nadal emerged in front of the sold-out 17,500-seat crowd at the O2 Arena to a standing ovation and after posing with their opponents at the net, Tiafoe insisted on shaking hands with Federer before starting.

From their team bench, Novak Djokovic took out his phone to record as he supported his two great rivals and during the first change of sides a tribute video was played around the stadium with contributions from Nadal, the mother of Federer, Lynette and others.

Roger Federer is applauded by his Team Europe colleagues, including Novak Djokovic.
Roger Federer is applauded by his Team Europe colleagues, including Novak Djokovic. Photography: Andrew Boyers/Action Images/Reuters

Having not competed for 14 months following his 6-0 fourth-set loss to Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon and subsequent knee surgery, even Federer was unsure how his game would handle both the occasion and its rust.

He did extremely well. While he was unable to move at full speed, his hands remained delicate and easy. His first touch of the night was a solid forehand volley victory and that set the tone. After being neat at the net throughout the first set and serving quite well, it was Federer who stepped up the first set on the line and sealed it with a forehand winner.

There was also a lot of joy. After more than 1,500 games, Federer still had time to finish with a final first, drilling a forehand between the small gap to the corner of the net, although the point was ultimately awarded to their opponents. There were countless jokes and laughs between Nadal and Federer even though they played hard for a final victory. Djokovic and Murray, meanwhile, the only players qualified to give tactical advice to the pair, frequently took part in their discussions during changes.

Federer’s storied career ended with the pair playing a mediocre tiebreak after an intense and close second set. With the match up for grabs in the 10-point tiebreak of the final set, Nadal implored himself to play aggressively.

They stormed into the tiebreaker, with the crowd giving a standing ovation after clearing the first three points. But right at the end, with a match point on Federer’s serve, they settled for defeat.

Earlier today, as Federer and Rafael Nadal headed for his final pre-match training, Federer livestreamed their trip on Instagram. Federer laughed as he pointed out how untimely their preparation was and he admitted that his constant laughter betrayed his nerves. Eventually, Federer explained that although Nadal would perform a full warm-up, he would only train for 15-20 minutes.

In all the ways Federer imagined the end of his career, many aspects of this farewell seem so hard to take. He entered the O2 Arena physically compromised after 14 months of desperately trying to return in full. In the end, however, it didn’t matter. He has already given so much, for himself and for the sport, and he is leaving at 41 having completed a career as complete as any other.

How a ballboy became a legend: Roger Federer’s career highlights – video

He played some of the greatest tennis ever, executing it with grace and style. But he complemented the ease with courage and resilience, qualities rarely discussed but essential to all his successes.

Federer suffered so many crushing defeats in his 24 years on the tour, but he never failed to raise his head, show his face again and put himself in the same position to succeed or fail once again. more.

He remains the star growth kid throughout his career, an inconsistent and unstable youngster who blossomed into one of the most enduring.

Federer’s presence will continue to be felt around the tour. From the caps bearing his logo which, even in his absence for the past 15 months, have been a constant at every tournament around the world, to the many other players who have turned into weak fans in his presence.

Many of them have tried to learn aspects of his greatness in order to succeed, and many have built great careers as a result. But there will never be anyone like him.

theguardian Gt

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