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Roger Federer to retire: “This is a bittersweet decision”

  • Matt Trollope

Roger Federer will conclude his glittering competitive tennis career at the upcoming Laver Cup in London.

The Swiss tennis superstar, who turned 41 last month, posted a message on his social media channels explaining his decision to stop playing after almost a quarter-century on the circuit.

Following his return at the Laver Cup after 14 months on the sidelines, Federer was then targeting an appearance at his hometown tournament in Basel – with an eye to playing more regularly in 2023.

But recent reports emerged that the 20-time Grand Slam champion was continuing to struggle with the knee issues that sidelined him.

Thursday’s announcement seemed to confirm those struggles were insurmountable.

“The past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries,” wrote Federer, who last played in a quarterfinal loss to Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon in 2021.

“I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear.

“I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years.

“Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognise when it is time to end my competitive career.

“The Laver Cup next week in London will be my final ATP event. I will play more tennis in the future, of course, just not in Grand Slams or on the tour.”

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The announcement draws the curtain on one of the finest careers in professional tennis history.

Federer won six Australian Opens among his haul of 20 major singles titles, as well as eight trophies at Wimbledon.

His victory at Melbourne Park in 2017 is considered one of the greatest triumphs, given it came at age 35, after six months out, almost five years after his previous Grand Slam trophy, and against an opponent, Rafael Nadal, who until then had dominated their head-to-head.

It was the start of a superb 14-month span during which he won three of five major tournaments and returned to world No.1. 

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Federer’s 2009 triumph at Roland Garros saw him complete a career Grand Slam; in 2006 and 2007 he came within one match of achieving the calendar Grand Slam, in both years scooping the Australian, Wimbledon and US titles but falling in the French final. He also reached all four major finals in 2009, winning the Roland Garros-Wimbledon “Channel Slam”.

Federer first rose to world No.1 in February 2004, immediately after winning his first AO title, holding that top spot for a record 237 consecutive weeks.

He amassed 310 total weeks as world No.1, last appearing at the summit in June 2018 – more than 14 years after first arriving there.

He also won 103 titles, Olympic gold in doubles with Stan Wawrinka at Beijing 2008, the 2014 Davis Cup title for Switzerland (also alongside Wawrinka) and achieved countless other records – including a run of 23 consecutive major semifinal appearances.

Roger Federer Australian Open 2018 champion
Roger Federer won the last of his six Australian Open titles in 2018. (Getty Images)

“(My retirement) is a bittersweet decision, because I will miss everything the tour has given me. But at the same time, there is so much to celebrate,” Federer reflected. 

“I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible.”

He was the first of the sport’s “Big Three” to emerge, closely followed by Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

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The trio went on to develop extraordinary rivalries, battle out classic matches and compile some of the greatest statistics and records in what most observers consider a “golden generation”.

They completely dominated men’s tennis for almost two decades, combining to win a staggering 63 Grand Slam singles titles.   

“I was lucky enough to play so many epic matches that I will never forget,” Federer said.

“We battled fairly, with passion and intensity, and I always tried my best to respect the history of the game. I feel extremely grateful.

“We pushed each other, and together we took tennis to new levels.” 

Federer was especially notable for his graceful style, effortless athleticism and command over a variety of strokes.

Roger Federer Round 4 AO2018
Roger Federer plays his single-handed backhand at Australian Open 2018, his last of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles.

This, coupled with his calm on-court presence and relaxed, approachable nature off it, earned him legions of fans worldwide.

His popularity and global recognition is also reflected in his endorsement portfolio; as well as earning more than $130 million in career prize money, Forbes estimates that his endorsements and business ventures generated another $1 billion in off-court earnings.

Federer was listed as the world’s richest athlete in 2020, and for almost 20 years has been the highest-earning tennis player.

He will appear for one last time on court as part of Team Europe at Laver Cup on 23-25 September.