Roger Federer will play the final match of his career partnering great Spanish rival Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup on Friday night at London’s O2.
Team Europe captain Bjorn Borg granted his wish to compete alongside his oldest and greatest rival, after the 20-time Grand Slam champion said playing with Nadal would be “the most beautiful thing”.
Federer and Nadal, a 22-time major winner, will face Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World at around 9pm (BST).
Earlier Andy Murray, making his debut at the Ryder Cup-style event, will take on Australia’s Alex De Minaur.
Federer announced last week he would bring his professional tennis career to a close after the Laver Cup.
He says he has “fallen in love with too many things” to walk away from tennis, with the 41-year-old vowing to stay involved in some capacity and not become a “ghost”.
Federer, whose most recent competitive match was a loss to Hubert Hurkacz in last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals, has been struggling with a knee problem.
“It was about time that I retired. I think a moment like this doesn’t come overnight. It was a process – an emotional one – which at the end I thought we managed well, with the family, the team, my closest friends,” said Federer.
“It all worked out and here we are now at the Laver Cup. But it was definitely more a highly unusual last few weeks for me.”
Speaking at a packed press conference at the O2, the 41-year-old explained he had plans to stay involved in tennis in the future, saying: “I just wanted to let the fans know I won’t be a ghost.
“I talked about (Europe captain) Bjorn Borg. I don’t think he returned to Wimbledon for 25 years. I don’t think I’ll be that guy and I feel tennis has given me too much. I have been around the game for too long. Have fallen in love with too many things.
“I love seeing people again, and that’s kind of what I wanted to let the fans know that you’ll see me again. Not just never again. Now what it could be, in what capacity, I don’t know. So I still have to think about it a little bit but give myself time.”
What will Federer miss the most?
“I don’t want to say love-hate, but the things you will miss, you are happy you’re not having to do them again,” admitted the Swiss. “I love tying my shoes, getting ready, putting the bandanna on, I look in the mirror, Are we ready for this? Yeah, okay, let’s go.
“As much as I love it, I’m happy I don’t have to go through it again. Having those knots in my tummy, waiting all day, eating breakfast, thinking about tonight, I’ve got another big match. Oh, I’ve got another 15 hours to wait for it.”
‘Serena and I were the bridge from the old and new generation’
Speaking to Sky Sports, Federer reflected on his and Serena Williams’ retirements, saying it’s been a privilege for them both to play across generations.
Asked what they had brought to the sport, Federer said: “Different things, for sure. But at the end, we both did it as mums and dads.
“When we were young, made it on tour, we never thought we were going to end (like this). I think we were definitely the bridge from the old generation to the new generation, which I think has been a privilege for me to play across generations like this, and the same for her.
“I think she brought the power game in like no other and being a game-changer is something that I think is the biggest compliment. I don’t know if I did that, but I did it my way and I hope people enjoyed watching me play for so long.
“I would always love to return to tennis in some shape or form, but I don’t know in what capacity.”
I still think tennis is going to be really exciting and we probably don’t know in which way it’s going to go exactly, but we will see some ridiculous defending, some unbelievable power, and great personalities. I’ll be their number one fan. It’s going to be all good.
Federer not so positive about serve and volley
The eight-time Wimbledon champion hailed the next generation of players coming through, including the likes of new world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz, Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev, but says athleticism and all-court coverage is slowly taking over from the traditional serve and volley.
“The best movers are the best players,” he said. “It’s been like this for the last 10, 20 years already now, and it’s going to stay like this, if you see what they are able to do. I think that is going to stay this way.
“I’m not so positive about serve and volley. I think it’s easier to stay at the baseline after the serve.
“There are definitely ways to have an all-court game, a transition game, which I loved playing. I loved my half-volleys, loved my transition game. I knew if I hit it onto the service line, that is an approach opportunity for my opponent. They’re coming. So that’s why I better play one meter to the baseline, and then I can keep them back. Anything short, they’re coming in.
“Nowadays that’s not the case. I still think tennis is going to be really exciting and we probably don’t know in which way it’s going to go exactly, but we will see some ridiculous defending, some unbelievable power, and great personalities. I’ll be their number one fan. It’s going to be all good.”
Federer’s career in numbers
- 20 – Grand Slam titles
- 31 – Grand Slam finals
- 23 – consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals from 2004 to 2010, an all-time record
- 36 – consecutive appearances in Grand Slam quarter-finals
- 65 – consecutive Grand Slam appearances from the Australian Open in 2000 to the French Open in 2016
- 8 – Wimbledon titles, the most of any man
- 6 – Australian Open titles
- 5 – US Open titles
- 1 – French Open title
- 1,251 – career matches won out of 1,526
- 369 – match wins in Grand Slams
- 22 – consecutive appearances at Wimbledon
- 310 – weeks spent at world No 1, 237 of them consecutively
- 36 – at 36 years and 320 days, Federer was the oldest world No 1 in ATP history
- 5 – Federer has reached the final at every Grand Slam at least five times
- 103 – career titles, second in the Open era behind Jimmy Connors
- 6 – titles won at the ATP Finals, an all-time record
- 10 – titles won at the ATP events in Basle and Halle
- 12 – titles won in 2006, his most successful season
- 92 – matches won from 97 played in 2006
- 65 – consecutive matches won on grass from 2003 to 2008
- 3 – Federer reached the finals of all the Grand Slams in three different seasons
- 2 – Olympic medals; gold in doubles with Stan Wawrinka in 2008 and silver in singles in 2012
- 24 – losses to his great rival Rafael Nadal from 40 matches
- 130,594,339 – career prize money (US dollars)
- 550million – estimated net worth (USD)
London a special place in Federer’s heart
This city and its fans have given me a lot so I thought it was fitting to end it here.
“The Laver Cup is going to be my last sort of active tournament I’ll play. It feels good. I think it’s a lovely place. Having Bjorn Borg as my captain, you can imagine that means the world to me. And I think it’s going to be very special doing it here in London,” said Federer.
“I think it’s going to be great just because the city has given me two World Tour Finals victories here to close out an incredible year that I probably already had those years. And then down the road at Wimbledon winning there eight times plus juniors.
“This city and its fans have given me a lot so I thought it was fitting to end it here. I will not stop playing tennis, it’s just I will not play for points any more. I will keep on playing with my children, with my friends, hope to play exhibitions in the future and just still keep on promoting the game and playing in places I’ve never played before. So I’m really looking forward to that as well in the future.”
Borg and McEnroe praise Roger
“Everyone loves him and he also backs it up because he’s such a tremendous person on top of everything else. If there was one thing I do envy about him, it’s his absolute love of the sport,” said seven-time Grand Slam champion, McEnroe. “He loves everything about it.
“He made the difficult look easy. That’s the greatest quality. If you can have that in tennis, then you’re in good shape.”
Five-time Wimbledon champion, Borg said: “Federer was an artist. It’s as simple as that and as difficult as that too, but he did everything that many people would love to do on a tennis court.”