The Roger Federer era is officially over. The Swiss great brought the curtain down on his spectacular career in a “super special” match alongside long-time rival Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup.
But he was denied a fairytale finish, falling short for Team Europe in a tight defeat to Team World duo Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock in a match that concluded well after midnight at the O2 Arena in London.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, dogged by a knee injury, had not played since the 2021 Wimbledon quarter-finals and last week announced his retirement at the age of 41.
But the dream doubles pairing shook off the rust to take the younger American pair all the way to a match tie-break, losing 6-4 6-7 9-11, after Sock and Tiafoe saved a match point of their own.
Federer was left in tears after the match concluded – with many of the 17,500 fans in attendance also left wiping their eyes.
Federer’s parents made a rare appearance, with his wife and family also in the stands as well as fellow greats like Rod Laver, John McEnroe, and Stefan Edberg.
‘I’d do it all again’: Fed leaves everyone in tears with incredible seven-minute goodbye
An emotional Federer said with a trembling voice: “We’ll get through this somehow, won’t we?”
“It’s been a wonderful day,” he said. “I told the guys: ‘I’m happy, I’m not sad.’ It feels great to be here and I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time. Everything was the last time.”
He joked: “Though I did think something was going to go – I’d pop a calf, or block a back or something,” but added he was happy to make it through unscathed.
“It feels like a celebration to me,” he added. “It’s exactly what I hoped for.”
“It’s been a perfect journey, I would do it all over again.”
Tears streamed down his face throughout an emotional farewell interview, especially when he discussed the support of his family throughout his incredible career. “My wife’s been so supportive … she could have stopped me a long long time ago but she didn’t. She kept me going.”
Though Federer and Nadal showed signs of rustiness, there was no shortage of incredible moments – including an early play in the match where Federer managed to squeeze a shot through a tiny hole where the net attached to the supporting pole. Although it was ruled illegal, the miraculous accuracy of his play left fans and even Team Europe colleagues like Novak Djokovic stunned.
The superstar duo also shared plenty of jokes throughout the thrilling match, with Nadal at one point saying between games: “It’s unbelievable when you don’t play doubles, how slow you are at the net.”
The Swiss great has enjoyed a storied rivalry with the Spaniard over nearly two decades – their first ATP Tour meeting coming in 2004 – and together they have won 42 Grand Slam singles titles in a golden era for the men’s game.
The pair played 40 times, including in nine Grand Slam finals, with Nadal holding a 24-16 winning record, but this time they were on the same side of the net in the Ryder Cup-style event.
The six-strong Team Europe also includes Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — the other two members of the so-called “Big Four” — in a fitting climax to Federer’s career.