Roger Federer broke into tears multiple times as he gave a lengthy speech upon officially retiring from tennis at the O2 Arena in the early hours of Saturday morning. Federer’s final match and his emotional address to the crowd afterwards also brought tears from Rafael Nadal with whom he shared his career swansong in a Laver Cup doubles match against Team World’s Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe. The Swiss’ final ever match ended in defeat to the Americans but that did not stop the celebrations of the 20-time Grand Slam champion’s iconic career.
Taking the microphone to speak to the crowd after his final match, Federer said: “We’ll get through this somehow, will we, right?! Look, it’s been a wonderful day. I told the guys I’m happy, I’m not sad. It feels great to be here. I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time – and everything was the last time.
“Funny enough with all the matches and having the guys being here, fans, family, friends, I didn’t feel the stress so much even though I did think something was going to go – pop a calf or block a back or something in the match. I’m so happy I made it through. The match was great and I couldn’t be happier.
“It’s been wonderful. And of course playing with Rafa, on the same team, having all the guys here and all the legends, Rocket [Rod Laver], Stefan Edberg – thank you. It is amazing, it really is [to share the court with Rafa and the others]. I didn’t want it to feel lonely out there. It felt lonely for a second when they told me to come out one more time, it didn’t feel great. But to say goodbye in a team, I always felt I was a team player at heart.
“Singles doesn’t really do that a whole lot but I’ve had a team that travelled with me around the world. It’s been amazing with them. Thanks to everybody who made it work for so many years. Of course being on a team with Andy [Murray], Thomas [Enqvist], Novak [Djokovic], Matteo [Berrettini], Cam [Norrie], Stefanos [Tsitsipas], Rafa and Casper [Ruud] – and also the other team – you guys are unbelievable.
“It’s been a pleasure playing all these Laver Cups and it does feel like a celebration to me. I wanted it to feel like this at the end and it’s exactly what I hoped for, so thank you.”
Asked how it’s been to enjoy his journey from playing as a young boy to this, he added: “It was never supposed to be that way. I was just happy to play tennis and spend time with my friends, really. It ended here. It’s been a perfect journey. I would do it all over again.”
Federer then stopped as the tears returned, before continuing: “It’s been great, it’s been so much fun, it’s been amazing. Thank you everybody. I’ve had so many people cheer me on. You guys here tonight, it means the world.” Asked about his family, Federer joked: “We have to go there? No, no it’s OK. I’ve done OK so far, I feel at least.
“I’ve been at least able to talk. In my vision I was never able to talk so I’m doing way better! Everybody is here tonight from my family, so it’s great. I’ve had so much fun over the last 13 years ever since everybody’s here, the girls, the boys. My wife has been so supportive and…”
Federer’s emotions then got the better of him again before. He composed himself once more and said as he choked back tears: “She could’ve stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn’t. She kept me going so it’s amazing. Thank you!” His final words were: “I find it always funny. We always blame my mum for everything, because without her we wouldn’t be here at course.
“Thanks to my parents – you’ve been amazing. Thank you! And just everybody, too many people to thank, it’s just been incredible. My god. A fantastic night. Thank you everybody. Thank you everybody, thank you.”
‘Fedal’ lost to the American duo of Sock and Tiafoe 6-4, 6-7, 9-11 to the sadness of London’s O2 Arena. It was only the second time ever they teamed up, after the 2017 Laver Cup, and it will be the last with the curtain now drawn on Federer’s professional tennis career.
World’s win leaves the Laver Cup scoreline at 2-2 going into day two. Europe had led 2-0 after Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas both won their singles matches earlier on Friday. But Alex de Minaur launched a comeback to defeat Andy Murray in the evening session before Sock and Tiafoe’s triumph.