Tennis

‘He redefined greatness’: Tributes pour in as Federer announces retirement

Reuters
‘He redefined greatness’: Tributes pour in as Federer announces retirement

Toby Melville/Reuters

'I wish this day would have never come. It's a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world,' says Rafael Nadal as his friend and rival Roger Federer retires

Roger Federer’s decision to retire may not have come as a surprise to the tennis world but Thursday’s announcement was still met with an outpouring of sadness as current and former players celebrated one of sport’s greatest athletes.

Heartbreak and goat (Greatest Of All Time) emojis filled social media after the 41-year-old Swiss posted a lengthy letter saying he was finally hanging up his racket after 24 years on the Tour, with next week’s Laver Cup in London set to be his swan song.

Federer was the first player to win 20 Grand Slam titles but has since seen his record broken by Rafa Nadal (22) and Novak Djokovic (21) as the ‘Big Three’ fought epic encounters on court that headlined the sport in the 21st century.

“I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world,” Nadal said.

“It’s been a pleasure but also an honor and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.”

Nadal has played Federer 40 times while Djokovic has faced him 50 times as the trio battled for supremacy, elevating the sport to stratospheric heights to spark the GOAT debate.

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“I have always looked up to you and admired you. Our paths were always so similar, so much the same. You inspired countless millions and millions of people – including me – and we will never forget,” said Serena Williams, widely regarded as the all-time greatest female tennis player who also recently retired from the sport.

“Roger Federer is a champion’s champion,” said 12-time major winner Billie Jean King.

“He has the most complete game of his generation and captured the hearts of sports fans around the world with an amazing quickness on the court and a powerful tennis mind.”

Having played over 1,500 matches, Federer still holds plenty of other records and is widely regarded as the greatest grasscourt player of all time having won Wimbledon eight times – a men’s record.

“It’s been a privilege to witness your journey and see you become a champion in every sense of the word,” Wimbledon said on Twitter.

“We will so miss the sight of you gracing our courts, but all we can say for now is thank you, for the memories and joy you have given to so many.”

Federer never won an Olympic gold medal in the singles, but he did win one in the doubles and was Switzerland’s proud flag bearer at the 2004 and 2008 Games.

“What a career, what a champion. Thank you Roger Federer for all the matches, victories, defeats and emotions we were able to experience. The Swiss couldn’t be prouder,” Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said.

Role model

But more than his prowess on court, it was Federer’s charisma and genial personality that made him a role model for fans across generations.

“He redefined greatness on the court while his champion spirit, sportsmanship and the way he played the game thrilled audiences around the world for decades, inspiring so many to pick up a racket,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.

“He spearheaded an incredible new era of growth and elevated the popularity of our sport. Few athletes have transcended their field in such a manner.

“Roger made us all feel proud and fortunate to be part of the same sport.”

Chris Evert, an 18-time major winner, said Federer was the “epitome of a champion.

“Class, grace, humility, beloved by everyone and he elegantly mastered the sport like no other,” she said.

US Open women’s champion Iga Swiatek said it had been a ‘privilege’ to witness Federer’s career while Carlos Alcaraz, the latest entrant in the Grand Slam winners’ club after his triumph in New York, was not ready to say goodbye.

“Roger has been one of my idols and a source of inspiration,” the new world No. 1 said.

“Thank you for everything you have done for our sport! I still want to play with you.”

Class, grace, humility

Here’s a roundup of reaction to Federer announcing his retirement:

RAFA NADAL, 22-TIME GRAND SLAM WINNER

“I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world. It’s been a pleasure but also an honor and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.

“We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that. For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what’s ahead of you.”

SERENA WILLIAMS, 23-TIME GRAND SLAM WINNER

“I wanted to find the perfect way to say this, as you so eloquently put this game to rest – perfectly done, just like your career.

“I have always looked up to you and admired you. Our paths were always so similar, so much the same. You inspired countless millions and millions of people – including me – and we will never forget.

“I applaud you and look forward to all that you do in the future. Welcome to the retirement club. And thank you for being you.”

WIMBLEDON, WHERE FEDERER WON A MEN’S RECORD EIGHT TITLES

“Roger, where do we begin? It’s been a privilege to witness your journey and see you become a champion in every sense of the word.

“We will so miss the sight of you gracing our courts, but all we can say for now is thank you, for the memories and joy you have given to so many.”

CARLOS ALCARAZ, NEW MEN’S WORLD NO. 1

“Roger has been one of my idols and a source of inspiration! Thank you for everything you have done for our sport! I still want to play with you! Wish you all the luck in the world for what comes next!”

IGA SWIATEK, WOMEN’S WORLD NO. 1

“I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you are for our sport. It’s been a privilege to witness your career. I wish you all the best.”

ALEXANDER ZVEREV, WORLD NO. 5

“Thank you @rogerfederer for everything you did for our sport, for inspiring millions of people all around the world, and for being a true role model.

“I feel extremely fortunate and honored to have shared the court with you so many times and will cherish these memories forever. Congratulations on a legendary career! You are one of a kind!”

ANDREA GAUDENZI, ATP CHAIRMAN

“Roger’s impact on tennis, and the legacy he’s built, are impossible to overstate. Over 24 years as a professional, Roger brought millions of adoring fans into the game. He spearheaded an incredible new era of growth and elevated the popularity of our sport.

“Few athletes have transcended their field in such a manner. Roger made us all feel proud and fortunate to be part of the same sport. He redefined greatness on the court.”

SWISS PRESIDENT IGNAZIO CASSIS

“What a career, what a champion. Thank you Roger Federer for all the matches, victories, defeats and emotions we were able to experience. The Swiss couldn’t be prouder!”

CHRIS EVERT, 18-TIME MAJOR WINNER

“He was the epitome of a champion; class, grace, humility, beloved by everyone and he elegantly mastered the sport like no other. Good luck to you, Roger Federer, don’t go too far!”

HUBERT HURKACZ, LAST PLAYER TO FACE AND BEAT FEDERER ON TOUR

“It was an honor to experience your game for all these years and to share the court with you Roger Federer. You’ve been an inspiration to me and many, many others. Congratulations on a legendary career and good luck for the future.”

THOMAS BACH, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE PRESIDENT

“Roger Federer is a gentleman on and off the court – and a true Olympic champion. Congratulations Roger on your outstanding career, good luck for the future. Hope our paths will cross again.”

BILLIE JEAN KING, FORMER WOMEN’S NO. 1

“Roger Federer is a champion’s champion. He has the most complete game of his generation and captured the hearts of sports fans around the world with an amazing quickness on the court and a powerful tennis mind.

“He has had a historic career with memories that will live on and on. Congratulations Roger Federer. We wish you the very best as your journey continues.”

SCOTT LLOYD, LAWN TENNIS ASSOCIATION CEO

“He will retire as one of the legends of the game, who brought joy to anyone who watches tennis. Nobody who saw him play will forget his grace, elegance and poise on court.

“We were lucky that many of his greatest performances took place at Wimbledon, and he will always remain a favourite of the British crowds.”

JOHN ISNER

“Some of Fed’s numbers are laughably impossible to top (23 straight slam semifinals, for instance) but his impact on tennis far exceeds what he accomplished on court.

“Absolute living legend. Thanks for all the countless memories.”

TOMMY PAUL

“He is an icon. He is like the most-liked tennis player of all time. Really nice guy, Sad to see him go.”

“He hasn’t been on the tour in a while. The level on tour is really high right now. The tour is in good hands, but obviously we’re going to miss him.”

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO, FORMER US OPEN CHAMPION

“I LOVE YOU, Roger. Thank you for everything you’ve done in tennis and with myself. Tennis world will never be the same without you.

ANDY RODDICK, WHO LOST THE 2009 WIMBLEDON FINAL TO FEDERER

“Cheers Roger. Thanks for the shared memories my friend. It was an honor to share time/experiences on the most hallowed grounds in our sport. Don’t be a stranger.

“Also, seems like a good time to start training for Wimby (Obviously kidding).”

PETRA KVITOVA, TWICE WIMBLEDON CHAMPION

“Roger – you have always been such a huge inspiration to me. Your elegance, your grace, your beautiful game.

“I have always held you in the highest regard and want to congratulate you for an amazing career. Tennis won’t be the same without you! Thank you.”

ROLAND GARROS

“An inspiration on and off the court. Thank you, Roger.”

AUSTRALIAN OPEN

“It’s hard to find the words @rogerfederer, watching you play tennis has been the greatest joy. Thank you.”

ROD LAVER

“Thank you for everything Roger. See you soon. Rocket.”

LAVER CUP

“Congratulations on a transcendent competitive career. Thank you for being a never-ending source of inspiration.”

SWISS TENNIS

“Thank you Roger Federer for everything you have done for Swiss and international tennis, for all the countless emotions we were able to share with you, for every child you inspired to play tennis!”

SACHIN TENDULKAR, FORMER CRICKETER

“What a career, Roger Federer. We fell in love with your brand of tennis. Slowly, your tennis became a habit. And habits never retire, they become a part of us. Thank you for all the wonderful memories.”

MILOS RAONIC

“Thank you for doing more for tennis than any single individual. Thanks to you competitors and fans across the world get to experience and enjoy it all over the world.

“Congratulations on your achievements and the people you continue to impact in and away from tennis.”

DENIS SHAPOVALOV

“A role model for me and so many others!! Thanks for everything Roger. It’s been a privilege to share the court with you!!”

DAVID FERRER, FORMER WORLD NO. 3

“I have many memories of him. Seventeen – that’s the number of times I lost to him. I could never beat him. Towards the end of my career, when I saw that I was not at the same level, he gave me advice and I will remember him with great affection.”

GARY LINEKER, FORMER FOOTBALLER AND TV PRESENTER

“It’s been one of the great pleasures in life to watch you play. You’ve brought so much joy to so many. Good luck with whatever comes next.”

JUDY MURRAY, ANDY MURRAY’S MOTHER

“The end of a magnificent era.”

– Rappler.com

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