Federer’s farewell to be in doubles
Tennis legend plans 1 last doubles match with Nadal at the Laver Cup
The Korea Times Co.
LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer leaned back on a couch, the picture of relaxation in a navy blue pullover, black jogger pants and white sneakers. He had just showered and changed after a practice session Wednesday at the arena that will be used for the final match of his career, grinning as he talked about getting into the flow with a racket in hand. “It was funny, hitting on the court — nice lighting, nice everything — how your level starts going up, you know?” he said in an interview with The Associated Press, following a farewell news conference. “Whereas if you play at home, in like just a normal tennis hall, things are fast, the lights aren’t great, advertising is all around you, you can never find this kind of rhythm.” Federer is known for his elegant style of play, for his longevity, for his 20 Grand Slam titles — and for occasional tears in his most emotional post-match moments, whether after victory or defeat. There was none of that sort of sadness Wednesday, just some chuckles at his own jokes, as Federer discussed his retirement from professional tennis at age 41 after a series of knee operations. He will close his playing days with a doubles match at the Laver Cup on Friday — perhaps alongside longtime rival Rafael Nadal. Federer said he is at peace with the decision to walk away, which comes a few weeks after Serena Williams played what is expected to be her last match at the U.S. Open, and he wants this farewell to be a celebration. “I really don’t want it to be a funeral,” Federer said. “I want it to be really happy and powerful and party mode.” Federer, who announced last week via social media that he would be retiring after the Laver Cup, said it took him a bit to get used to the idea of stepping away from competition. In his online farewell message last week, Federer referred to retirement as a “bittersweet decision.” He was asked Wednesday at the news conference what aspect was most bitter and what was most sweet. “The bitterness: You always want to play forever,” he said. “I love being out on court. I love playing against the guys. I love traveling. … It was all perfect. I love my career from every angle.” And then he added: “The sweet part was that I know everybody has to do it at one point; everybody has to leave the game. It’s been a great, great journey. For that, I’m really grateful.” He will play doubles for Team Europe against Team World on Day 1 of the event, and then give way to 2021 Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini for singles over the weekend. That plan was run by the ATP and both team captains, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, Federer said. “I grew up watching him, rooting for him, trying to learn from him,” Berrettini said. “His charisma, his class will be missed — everything he brought to tennis on the court and off.” Those sentiments were echoed by other Laver Cup players, such as 2021 French Open runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas (“My biggest memory of him is watching him lift trophies at almost every Grand Slam he played when I was a kid“) or U.S. Open semifinalist Frances Tiafoe (“I don’t think we’ll see another guy like Roger — the way he played, and the grace he did it with, and who he is as an individual”). As for Federer’s doubles partner for the last hurrah? Federer would not say definitively — he said that’s up to Borg — but the not-so-hidden secret is that it is expected to be Nadal, who holds the men’s record of 22 major championships. They played each other 40 times in all (Nadal won 26), with 14 Grand Slam matchups (Nadal won 10). Nadal came out on top in their classic 2008 Wimbledon final, considered by some the greatest match in history.