Laver Cup: Federer, a goodbye in full: “I don’t need records to be happy” | Sports

Roger Federer will always be Roger Federer, whatever he does and whatever the circumstance: eternally exemplary, masterful, brilliant. Without exception. And so until the end. Goodbye is already approaching, which is happening these days in London inevitably and, says the Swiss, 41 years old, “it should not be a funeral” but quite the opposite. “Party” on the banks of the Thames. The Swiss talks first thing in the morning and his sport finds it hard to contain his tears while the tennis player, the legend in reality, reels off the process that has led him to hang up his violin for good – not a racket, in his case – and explains that it goes to the Federer; that is, in its own way. As he wants. In the same way that the game always went through his serve, his forehand and his delicious one-handed backhand, the farewell comes how, when and where he has decided.

“I want it to be fun, and not have everyone say, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. Are you okay? No not at all. I’m fine and I’m going to be happy”, the athlete, the giant, the icon whose significance goes far beyond figures, comparisons and debates, introduced yesterday. Because, whichever way you look at it, Federer is unique and unrepeatable and his excellence reaches the precise moment of closing the door and shelving an extraordinary journey. “It is the right moment, there was no point in continuing”, approves a Swiss journalist. “He has tried, but the bar is very high and if he was not going to be able to reach the level that he considers necessary, he prefers to finish like this”, transmits a person very close to him, who will play his last professional game on Friday .

If there is no setback, it will be together with Rafael Nadal, hand in hand and in the context of the competition that the Swiss created five years ago, the Laver Cup. “I know my limitations, so I spoke with Björn [Borg, el capitán del equipo europeo] and asked him if he was okay with it. Doing it with Rafa would be special. Regardless of how our respective careers have gone, we have been able to have a good relationship, and that is a great message not only for tennis, but for sport and even beyond”, values ​​the Swiss, who this summer, seeing that his right knee did not finish reacting well to a triple operation on his right knee -injured since the beginning of 2020-, he made the decision to stop.

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He sat down with his parents, his wife Mirka –architect of the poised and elegant man he is today– and with his agent, Tony Godsick, and between the three of them they concluded that it no longer made much sense to fight against the inevitable. “Rehab was easy. Sure there are ups and downs and sometimes you get a little frustrated, but for the most part I enjoyed being home. There is no need to feel sorry, we must face it one way or another ”, he admitted in the bowels of the O2, southeast of the city; “there comes a time when you say to yourself: ‘we have reached a crossroads’, an intersection. And he wasn’t about to risk it all. You say to yourself: ‘OK, this is it’. Everyone has to leave the game at some point and mine has been a great journey.

Criticism and snowballs

Federer –103 trophies, 1,526 matches, incalculable legacy– emphasizes that when looking in the rearview mirror, what makes him most proud is his “longevity”, that ability to have been competitive until practically the last stretch; achieve the same status as other great sports figures “such as Michael Schumacher or Tiger Woods” who transcended, able to “stay at the top for so long”.

After a first surgical intervention, in February 2016, the one from Basel was not only able to return, but rather to resurface; he linked three other greats (Australian Open 2017 and 2018, and Wimbledon 2017) and rose to number one again. Always portrayed as a peerless stylist, Federer sticks out his chest for that “toughness” that has allowed him to govern so much and so well, something inconceivable in his hectic beginnings.

Federer, during his intervention before the journalists.Kin Cheung (AP)

As a teenager, the Swiss was anything but easy to manage and frequently turned his face in the face of adversity. “He used to criticize me a lot,” he remembers. “Sometimes fairly or unfairly. They thought that when he lost he didn’t give all he had, even though I cared about him more than most players. Do I have to growl, do I have to sweat more or yell more, be more aggressive? It’s not me. I’m not like that. I tried, but it was all an act. And I said: ‘I will try it in the most pleasant way,’ he continues; “Of course, I had to dodge all the snowballs that were thrown at me, but I am happy that I was able to have a good relationship with the players, the tournament directors and the press, and that is why I think I had so much fun on the tour . I think it was a good mentality”.

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Although he will take some time off and take some distance, Federer will continue to be closely linked to the circuit. That is to say, the opposite way to that of the Swedish Borg, who from the official instances lost track of him for a good season. “I feel like tennis has given me too much,” he puts it, “and I just want the fans to know that I won’t be a ghost.” He will miss the adrenaline, but not so much the tedious daily routines or the competition, and he says he does not reproach himself for anything: “I am definitely very proud of my place. One of my great moments, of course, was winning my 15th major at Wimbledon, when Pete [Sampras, uno de sus referentes] I was there [con 14]. Anything after that was a bonus. That was the record, and then of course there were others along the way. But I don’t need all the records to be happy.”

His goodbye is the prelude to the end of a wonderful time. A new one is here, far removed from the classicism and purity of her tennis. “I loved volleying, playing down the line and the transition game. Keep the opponent tucked back. I grew up watching Sampras, Henman…”, she affirms already in the past tense; “But I’m not too optimistic about the serve-volley. Today it is not like that anymore, but I still think that tennis will continue to be very exciting. And I will be your fan number one”.


A. C. | Londres

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The current number one, Carlos Alcaraz, has always expressed his admiration for Federer and his desire to play against him sometime. However, the 19-year-old Spaniard will not officially cross paths with the Swiss, 22 years older and with whom he rallied three years ago during a couple of training sessions at Wimbledon, when the Murcian was a junior. Along the same lines, Federer also regrets it.

“Of course, I have closely followed what he did at the US Open and throughout the year, and he has been fantastic. I have always said that there will always be new superstars and he is one of them. The future is bright”, said the Swiss, optimistic about the renovation of the circuit.

“I know that sometimes people don’t think like that. The same thing happened the same thing when Pete [Sampras] and Andrew [Agassi]they withdrew. They thought, what do we have now? And then came Novak, Rafa, Murray, Stan [Wawrinka] or myself…”, he prolonged; “I think the new generation is going to be great. More athletic than ever, I think, with him [Alcaraz], Zverev, Medvedev, Tsitsipas or Rublev. It’s not mentioned enough, but the best movers are the best players. It’s been that way for the last 10 or 20 years, and it’s going to stay that way.”

The protagonists of the Laver exercised on the track of the O2 and in the afternoon they took the official photo with the London Tower Bridge as a background. The components of the world team (Fritz, Aliassime, Schwartzman, Tiafoe and De Miñaur) and those of the European team (Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Ruud and Murray) paraded in suits. The only absentee was Nadal, who will land this Thursday in the English capital.

Before the portrait, they all attended a meeting with the legendary Rod Laver, 84 years old and winner of 11 majors. The Australian, to whom Federer and his partners dedicated the name of the tournament, twice won the Grand Slam (1962 and 1969).

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