Roger the Great
I bid you adieu
You’ve inspired a ton
Both past and present
Many slams you won
It won’t be the same
Without your style
Glad you came
It’s been a great while
It’s been a couple of weeks since the Laver Cup and Roger Federer’s retirement, yet it still feels strange to refer to him as a former player. I’m a 90s kid who grew up watching Federer decimate most of the tour shortly after winning his first slam at Wimbledon in 2003.
Any time he lost was an anomaly, usually requiring a gargantuan effort from his opponent. Even though I didn’t support Federer you would have to be a Grinch to deny his artistry with the racket.
I remember watching the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup Final between Federer and David Nalbandian, who was my favorite player at the time. This was the equivalent of the ATP Tour Finals back then and finals of Masters events were played to 5 sets.
Nalbandian, seeded 8th at the tournament, was playing due to the withdrawals of Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin. He was down two sets to love against Federer, who was still a bit rusty after returning from an ankle injury. However Nalbandian stayed in it and eventually prevailed in 5 sets for probably the greatest scalp of his career.
Why am I bringing up Nalbandian’s victory? Because it shows the immense stature of Federer and what beating him says about you as a player. Even defeating a less than 100% version of him required supreme ball striking from the Argentine, and 5 sets to boot.
A couple of years later a young man from Majorca emerged and would go on to be Federer’s greatest rival. Rafael Nadal and Federer became synonymous with tennis and produced some of the greatest matches of all time, with the Wimbledon 2008 Final being one that springs to mind.
Federer lost that day but the following year was one of the most important of his career. He claimed the elusive Roland Garros title beating Robin Soderling to tie Pete Sampras’ Grand Slam record and achieve the Career Grand Slam. At Wimbledon he beat Roddick in a 16-14 5th set thriller to secure the Channel Slam and hold the Grand Slam record to himself.
From 2011 onwards Novak Djokovic emerged as a threat to the duopoly of men’s tennis, and everyone started to write off Federer. But the great man was not going to disappear. He equaled the record with a 7th Wimbledon title in 2012, beating the top seeded Djokovic in the semis and Andy Murray in the final.
For a couple of years after this people again began to write off Federer. He was surely too old now, and after battling successive knee and back injuries it looked a mountain even he wouldn’t be able to climb. But return he did, in true Federer style with a new racket and playing a fresh brand of fast attacking tennis.
He defeated longtime rival Nadal in the 2017 Australian Open Final to mark the beginning of his late career renaissance, following it up with a record 8th Wimbledon title later that year. He then defended his Australian Open title in 2018 at 36 years of age and became the first man to reach 20 grand slam titles.
The following years saw some tough defeats for Federer as it seemed age and injuries finally caught up to him. Heartbreaking defeats at Wimbledon in 2018 and 2019 where he held match points will always sting.
It doesn’t seem fair that Federer’s last match at Wimbledon was a lopsided quarterfinal against Hubert Hurkacz. However even reaching that stage is a testament to his longevity, where he became the oldest Wimbledon quarterfinalist at 39 years of age.
It was only fitting Federer was surrounded by his three great rivals during the Laver Cup. Just like their careers were intertwined on the court, Federer’s legacy will always be front and center in the annals of tennis history. Let me know your thoughts below on Federer’s retirement and his contribution to the game.