“I have played more than 1,500 games in over 24 years and it’s time to quit. Received generosity greater than I ever imagined”
Roger Federer retires and it’s a bit like something goes out in the exact center of the sport. And it takes a moment of silence, absorbed and a mystical thread, to metabolize the emptiness that leaves one of the greatest athletes of all time. Next week’s Laver Cup in London, in the company of his peers Djokovic and Nadal, will be his last official act, then we will see him again on display, but no longer on the circuit, not in Wimbledon, not in a Grand Slam. Curtain.
It hurts, right? In reality, for over a year Ruggero, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, had evaporated from the fields, remaining among us as a benevolent and protective presence, guarded in a Swiss competitive afterlife, and therefore comfortable, from which he sent us ambiguously reassuring messages: ” I would like to come back, play one last time at Wimbledon ». It was not the unfortunate 6-0 collected in his last appearance on Center Court, his garden, by the Polish Hurkacz, nor the memory of the two matchpoints wasted against Djokovic in the now legendary final of 2019 at Church Road, but the three operations to the right meniscus. Reiterating that Time is a more dangerous opponent than Darth Vader and that even Federer’s Magical Body has limits.
“The message in recent times had become clear – he explained -. I’m 41, I’ve played over 1,500 games in over 24 years. Tennis has treated me with greater generosity than I ever imagined, and now I must admit that it is time to end my competitive career ».
These aren’t easy weeks for kings and queens. New York has just greeted Serena Williams, 41 years old as Federer in a few days, but it is symbolic, and almost touching, that the US Open has crowned a new tennis number one in the absence of the emeritus sovereign. Carlos Alcaraz, together with Jannik Sinner, inherits, however, an impossible role, and not because of the monstrous numbers of the genius: 20 Slams, 103 tournaments won, 310 weeks as number 1, an estimated worth of 550 million dollars.
Nadal and Djokovic, his great rivals, have now surpassed him almost in all statistics, but the absence that millions of tennis fans – and non-fans – have felt almost physically for months now is that of his style of play, of superior elegance, of the magical solutions that Federer knew how to find on the pitch.
The Federer moments, as Foster Wallace called them. The right that clicks on velvet gears, the reverse that his friend Anne Wintour would have gladly put on the cover of Vogue; the surgical service that slipped into the hopes of others; in short, all his sovereignly fluid gestures, which brought tennis back to dance, to art in general. Baldassar Castiglione, in the Renaissance, would have called it “contempt”: the miracle of making the most complicated undertakings appear simple. In addition to and above the eight Wimbledons won – and all the slam slams – the endless rivalries to scream with Nadal, Djokovic and Murray, the first dominant years and the resurrection of 2017, when the world took over at 36, was the ability to pierce the retinas and hearts with a gesture that has made them the Most Loved Ever. Not just in sports. Because there have been others immortals, from Ali to Jordan, from Senna to Maradona. But Federer was, and will continue to be, everyone’s champion. –