After 24 years of playing on the professional men’s tennis circuit, Roger Federer has finally decided to call it a day on his illustrious tennis career at the age of 41. Despite previously expressing an interest in competing at next year’s Wimbledon, the Swiss star has decided to listen to “(his body’s) message” and stated that his appearance at the Laver Cup in London next week will be his final professional tennis tournament. Federer leaves a massive legacy in his wake, with a career containing 20 grand slam titles, 310 weeks spent as world no.1, 6 year-end championships and most impressive of all, being Jimmy Carr’s doppelgänger, all combining to arguably make him the greatest and most influential tennis player of all time. So, what better time to reflect on the Swiss maestro’s extensive career at the pinnacle of tennis.
Following a junior career that saw him win Junior Wimbledon in 1998, Federer made his professional debut in the same year at the Swiss Open aged only 16. As expected for a player of such a young age, it didn’t come easy for him at first, but he progressively improved over time until he became one of the world’s best. He announced himself on the world stage by beating fourteen-times grand slam winner, Pete Sampras at Wimbledon 2001 aged only 19, before going all the way and taking home the trophy two years later for his first major win. Following that, Federer put the tennis world in a stranglehold with an unrivalled period of dominance, winning 11 of the next 17 grand slam titles and reaching world no.1 in early 2004, a position that he would not relinquish for a record 237 consecutive weeks.
The one thorn in Federer’s side during this time was a young Spaniard named Rafael Nadal, whose dominance over the French Open was the one thing that could rival Federer’s grip on the other majors. Their rivalry would come to define the decade and would culminate in the legendary 2008 Wimbledon final, where Nadal finally overcame Federer’s dominance following a titanic battle. Over time, the challengers to his crown became tougher and tougher, with the emergence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray; But it did not stop Federer, who continued to win despite the increased competition. Following 2012, the inevitable matter of injuries struck Federer, as he suffered back and knee problems that would limit him for the next few years. He wasn’t deterred though, as he completed one of sports’ greatest renaissances in 2017, taking two grand slam victories that saw him become the oldest ever world no.1, aged 36. The Federer Express was tough to stop.
Federer’s accolades are only one part of his legend, as his playing style is just as spectacular. Roger is an all-court player, possessing aspects of every playing style, but he differs from other all-court players by excelling at practically every part of his game. He is most comfortable at the baseline, but more than capable at playing at the net, while possessing a forehand that is one of the most fearsome shots in all of tennis. Proficient at smashes, skyhooks and half-volleys, with a serve that is virtually unreadable and that can be matched with an aggressive return. Coupling this versatility with swift and effortless court movement, Federer becomes an absolute monster of an opponent. I urge you to watch one of the many highlight reels of Roger from over the years, as when he is at his best, he produces some of the most beautiful tennis ever seen.
Off the Court
As the spearhead of tennis’ ‘golden age’, Federer’s image spans far and wide. Being the only tennis player to appear on the front cover of Sports Illustrated in the 21st century, Federer’s popularity brought a level of interest into the sport of tennis that had never been seen before; Best exemplified by the fact that between the time he had won his first and last Australian Open (2004 – 2018) the prize money had quadrupled! He is one of sport’s highest earners with, numerous endorsement deals that sees his face splashed across the entire world and yet he is also a generous donator, having organised several charity tennis matches in reaction to global disasters. All these facets contribute to the Roger Federer mythos that form one of the biggest global icons. But most importantly of all, in 2019 he was voted as GQ’s Most Stylish Man of the Decade, beating the likes of LeBron James, Justin Bieber and Kanye West.
The announcement of Federer’s retirement is a bittersweet one, tennis fans will not want to see such a legendary player depart, but he leaves with one of the finest resumés of any sportsperson in history. He elevated his sport to new heights and gave it some of its greatest moments in history. “The champion’s champion” spent many hours in the spotlight, but here’s hoping that his final few hours will be just as fine as the ones that preceded it.