His public address was eagerly awaited. Almost a week after announcing his future sporting retirement on social media, Roger Federer held a press conference on Wednesday in London as part of the Laver Cup (September 23-25), which will be his last competition as a as a professional tennis player at 41 years old. Confirming what he had already said in the Swiss media, he announced that he would only play a doubles on Friday, without knowing for the moment with whom, but with a clear preference for Rafael Nadal, his old record holder rival. Grand Slam titles (22). He also returned to what led him to make the decision to stop, a choice he fully assumes.
Roger Federer therefore took stock, for more than half an hour in front of an audience of journalists. And he proved, as so many times during his career, that he perfectly mastered the exercise of the press conference. Sincere without being overwhelmed by the emotions of recent days, he swept away 24 years of career on which he looked back with pride because never, as he repeated, he would have thought to accomplish so many things and earn so much. . But above all, he set the scene for what his final game should look like.
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According to the rules of the Laver Cup, each participant is required to play at least one single, but Federer waived this, considering himself too lacking in rhythm in the face of the intensity required of an exhibition competition where the entrants play seriously. . He therefore requested a derogation which he obviously obtained, given the circumstances and his status in this Laver Cup of which he is at the origin. “I asked Borg (his captain, editor’s note) if I could play a double on Friday and have Matteo (Berrettini) replace me on Saturday. I spoke to John about it too and to the ATP and they accepted.”
But who will be the lucky one who will play alongside him? Federer says he doesn’t know, even though his will is clear. “With Rafa (Nadal), we fought a lot on the courts, but we always had a lot of respect for each other, as for our respective families. I always got on well with him. It would be unique if I ended up with Rafa. It would be a great message for tennis and beyond“, he estimated. His future retirement moreover, Federer does not fear it even if he has not yet decided what he will do with it. He has also returned to what he had convinced him to say stop for good after a quarter of a century of strong emotions on the circuit.
“At the beginning of the summer, I tried to take a step forward in training. And I knew that a setback could be fatal at this stage. At Wimbledon, when I was invited (during the Sunday of the first week, editor’s note), I still really thought I could come back next year. But we had to take precautions and sometimes almost too much not to rush anything. I started to get tired of having to believe that things were going to turn out the right way, of being a little bit pessimistic“, he explained.
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Before adding:And then a knee scan result came back and it didn’t show the results I was hoping for. I was at a crossroads, I had to make up my mind and I didn’t want to risk everything to eventually come back. It was already incredible to have resumed my career after several operations. I always thought that I was going to finish my career, without going through surgery, before 2016.”
Federer therefore also wanted to preserve himself for the new life that now awaits him. Retiring is far from trivial, he even confided a certain sadness, but it was the decision that had to be made. “You want to play forever. I love being on the court, competing against my rivals, traveling, winning and learning from my defeats. But I know everyone has to quit at some point, and I’ve had a great career“, he noted, lucid, evoking in a non-exhaustive list his title at Roland-Garros in 2009, his victory in 2001 against Sampras or his return to the fore in 2017.
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At 41, the Basel has no regrets, but he knows that playing in front of full stadiums, and contact with the public, will miss him. So he will return to the circuit as an observer regularly. “I don’t really have an idea for what’s next. I just want to tell the fans that I won’t be a ghost. Björn (Borg) didn’t return to Wimbledon for 25 years after his retirement for example, and he had his reasons which are perfectly acceptable. But it won’t be my case“, he assured.
And tennis, what will it become without him? Again, Federer is not worried, very confident in the next generation. “It’s a shame that I couldn’t play against Alcaraz. I always knew there would be other superstars after me, and that’s already the case with him. We were already wondering how tennis was going to do after Agassi and Sampras and we know what happened. I’m not optimistic about serve and volley. But I am convinced that having a good transition game to the net is still possible. I’m sure tennis will be in good hands.”
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