O2 ARENA — Roger Federer is ending his career in style.
Three knee surgeries have prevented him from making a full-blown comeback on the ATP Tour, and so the 41-year-old has decided to retire after the Laver Cup and one final doubles match with Rafael Nadal on Friday night.
Typically, players are expected to play at least one singles match during the three-day event, but the Swiss is only fit to feature once, and so teammate Matteo Berrettini is set to replace him from Saturday.
“Of course this is an ATP event that I don’t want to mess with, but at the same time, I know my limitations,” Federer had said on Wednesday.
“This is why I asked Bjorn if it was okay if I play maybe just one doubles, then Matteo [Berrettini] would come in for me and have to play on Saturday for me.
“Bjorn said obviously, ‘Of course, that’s totally fine’. Everybody said that was fine.”
Federer released a retirement note across his social media platforms last week, and on Wednesday he elaborated on a decision that he ultimately made after Wimbledon in July.
“There was a certain process that started at the beginning of the summer, where you try to go to the next level in training, and I could feel it was getting difficult. So obviously I knew any hiccup was going to be the one potentially,” he added.
“I was also getting more tired because you have to put in more effort into it to be able to sort of believe that it was going to turnaround. You start getting too pessimistic. Then I also got a scan back which wasn’t what I wanted it to be.
“At some point you sit down and go, ‘Okay, we are at an intersection here, and you have to take a turn. Which way is it? I was not willing to go into the direction of let’s risk it all. I’m not ready for that. I always said that was never my goal.
“Of course you’re sad in the very moment when you realise, okay, this is the end. I sort of ignored it for a little bit, because I went on vacation and just said, ‘Okay, this is it’.
“This moment came shortly after I was at Wimbledon where I still truly actually believed there was going to be a chance for me to come back the next year. At what capacity, I didn’t know, but I thought it might be possible. Then on vacation, funnily enough, I didn’t speak to anybody about it other than my team, my parents, Mirka. We knew. Other than that, nobody really knew, and it was perfect like this.”
Many a Federer fan will be wondering what their hero will do next. Commentary stints are possible, so too exhibitions, but for now that is a distant thought, although he was keen to stress that he will not disappear entirely.
“I want to let the fans know I won’t be a ghost,” Federer added. “I talked about Bjorn Borg, I don’t think he returned to Wimbledon for 25 years. That, in a way, hurts every tennis fan. Totally acceptable, his life, his reasons, you know, but 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.”
Federer had called the moment “bittersweet” last week, and he admitted that three right knee surgeries meant it was ultimately the right call, and one that he does not intend to go back on.
“I’m not satisfied, but I’m happy. I’m happy with the decision because it’s the right one. I have had a lot of time to let it sit. It’s been a few months now, it has been rather stressful not having it leak out and I was more worried about everybody around me who knew about it, who were getting asked every single day, ‘How is Roger, how is Roger’s knee, and when is he coming back?’
“They all very well knew what the situation was. I’m sorry for them that they had to go through this. So I think we are all relieved at this point it’s out.
“What I want to do next is catch up a little bit, see everybody, and then go on vacation a little bit with the family. I think it’s a perfect moment for me to then spend time with [wife] Mirka.”