India, Sept. 22 — A glorious career that began back in 1998, culminating in 103 career titles which include 20 Grand Slams, is coming to an end on Friday as Roger Federer is all set to bid adieu to the sport.
The 41-year-old, who had planned to make an ATP tour return this month and had a scheduled Basel appearance in October, has decided to hang his racquet and will make his last appearance in competitive tennis at the Laver Cup in London, most likely alongside Rafael Nadal in a doubles match.
However, for Federer, it wasn’t an easy call as he revealed the painful details leading up to his retirement call on Thursday last week.
Tennis fans waited in bated breath for the return of Federer for the first time since Wimbledon 2021. His continued struggle with a knee injury had sidelined him for a long time, but he had scheduled his return to touring in the Laver Cup in London before travelling to Basel for the ATP 500 event.
At Wimbledon earlier this summer, he had even teased fans with the possibility of a 2023 appearance as well while experts looked at the probable chances of Federer in Grand Slams in the next year amid rising stars. But all hopes ended in a single moment on Thursday when Federer took to social media to announce his retirement.
“I guess there was a certain process that started at the beginning of the summer, where you try to go to the next level in training, and I could feel it was getting difficult,” Federer said. “Obviously at that point I knew any hiccup, any setback, for that matter, was going to be the one potentially.
“That you’re going to have harder moments or where you push too hard and you have to pull back a little bit, it’s normal in rehab because you always have to stay in that corridor of doing enough but not too much. I really like that challenge, because I really have to be in tune with my body and with my team of understanding how far can I go?
“Then I think over the course of a few weeks and months there, we just had to really be careful and almost to a certain level too careful. Then I guess I was also getting more tired because you have to put in more effort into it to be able to sort of believe that it was going to turn around. You start getting too pessimistic.”
Speaking to the press ahead of his final match, Federer revealed that his Centre Court appearance earlier at the SW19 this year gave him hopes of a return, but was left dismayed after he got back the scan results.
“Then I also got a scan back which wasn’t what I wanted it to be,” he said. “At some point you sit down and go, OK, we are at an intersection here, at a crossroad, and you have to take a turn. Which way is it?
“I was not willing to go into the direction of let’s risk it all. I’m not ready for that. I always said that was never my goal. If I look back at the last few years that I went through, the surgeries that I had to go through, for me it was always clear that I was going to end my career with no surgeries. You know, before 2016 and even ’16 was a tough year getting back from it.
“Any suggestions there from my side would be : ‘don’t have surgery if you don’t have to and just take the necessary time to come back, because it is brutal’. I think tennis is a tough sport to bounce back into, because you have to be able to play long matches, five matches in a row every week, different continents, different surfaces. There is no substitute for you. Obviously mentally you need to know you have to be able to get all the way back there, and it’s hard.
“Then maybe the hardest part after that one point, of course you’re sad in the very moment when you realise, OK, this is the end. I sort of ignored it for a little bit almost, because I went on vacation and just said, OK, this is it. This moment came shortly after I was at Wimbledon where I still truly actually believed there was going to be a chance for me to come back the next year. At what capacity, I didn’t know, but I thought it might be possible.
“Then on vacation, funnily enough, I didn’t speak to anybody about it other than my team, my parents, Mirka. We knew. Other than that, nobody really knew, and it was perfect like this. Didn’t talk about it. Just hanging with friends and other families. It was wonderful.”
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