“I worked hard to get back in top form. But I know the limits of my body, and the message it sends me lately is clear. » In his characteristic deep and nasal voice, Thursday, September 15, Roger Federer thus put an end to the rumors that have accompanied his comings and goings to the infirmary for three seasons. He announced the day of his sporting retirement which the tennis world, including his biggest rival, Rafael Nadal, would have ” like (that he) never happens”.
Her right knee not allowing her to close the ban in a Grand Slam draw, as women’s tennis icon Serena Williams had the opportunity to do at the US Open three weeks ago, it is during an exhibition competition, the Laver Cup, which the Swiss will bow out at the age of 41. In London, not far from the lawn where the player was crowned eight times, he should gratify the public with a last doubles match alongside Rafael Nadal, this Friday, September 23. Then he will leave the professional circuit, twenty-four years after his debut, and will orphan the world of the little yellow ball of its greatest ambassador.
Life without “Rodger”, tennis fans have been experiencing it for more than a year now. Since the elimination of the Swiss in his Wimbledon garden on July 7, 2021. They had been waiting for a repeat of his victorious comeback at the 2017 Australian Open, almost five years after his previous Grand Slam victory. Above all, they hoped that the Basel would offer them to follow this one-handed backhand caught in the half-volley one last time, to admire him walking his slender silhouette on the courts.
Roger Federer has won twenty Grand Slam trophies, a record since broken by Nadal (22) and Novak Djokovic (21). He had chained 23 consecutive semi-finals, between 2004 and 2010, another record. His game is “the most beautiful to look at”, recently repeated the Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
The tributes that have rocketed from all sides focus moreover less on his UFO-esque track record than on this more earthly elegance. To the point of becoming the very definition of his sport and “letting people think that tennis was easy, estimated Fabrice Santoro, one of his former adversaries, to The Team the day after the announcement of his retirement. There is not an ugly photo of Roger Federer. Every player in the world, at some point, there’s a picture grimacing, while Roger is always perfectly balanced, his face relaxed. »
By sparing the stands of soliloquies usually heard from other players, only rarely contesting arbitration decisions, the former world number one has also brought more simplicity to the often starchy environment of tennis.
While Novak Djokovic (35) and Rafael Nadal (36) should also put away their rackets in the years to come, and thus empty the circuit of the two other contenders for the title of best player in history, one question comes back: should tennis fear the future? “The world of tennis will never be the same again”, tweeted former Argentine player Juan Martin del Potro, one of the few, along with Stan Wawrinka, who seemed able to beat the trio on any surface.
But at a press conference, Wednesday, September 21, Roger Federer recalled that «people were asking the same question after the departure of Andre Agassi (in the early 2000s, editor’s note) : “What do we have now?” All different guys winning Grand Slams.” He wanted to be reassuring about the future actors of the game.
He quotes Carlos Alcaraz, who became the youngest world number one at 19 after a first Major title snatched in New York in September. Perhaps one day we will look at his five-hour quarter-final fight against the young Italian Jannik Sinner as the founding match of a new tennis, always faster, always more powerful. Perhaps we will finally retain the feeling that the net also served that day as a mirror for the punching kind from the baseline, the same that seems to apply to Alexander Zverev, Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev , Hubert Hurkacz, Taylor Fritz and Félix Auger-Aliassime – with Alcaraz and Sinner, the nine of the first fifteen players in the world not to exceed the age of 25.
Unlike the right-hander, who had managed to “to reconcile an almost old school tennis (…) with the violence of the current blows”, recently judged the former tricolor player Guy Forget. Roger Federer said to be seen “like a bridge between the game of the past and modern tennis, as if I was passing the baton between generations”, in an interview at Parisian in 2019, before Roland-Garros.
To the question of what the complete panoply of the Swiss will leave as a legacy to the game, one could therefore be tempted to answer nothing. To that concerning the popularity of a player, difficult, there too, to expect that a name is confused so much with his sport for “play at home almost everywhere”, summarized in his biography the journalist of the New York Times Christopher Clarey, after having followed him on all continents.
For the next generations, the player will perhaps leave a piece of advice to last in one of the most traumatic sports: hampered by a series of operations at the end of his career, he had chosen to rarefy his appearances in tournaments to concentrate his forces on a few Grand Slams. This allowed him, at 37 in 2019, to come close to the trophy at Wimbledon after a last anthology final against Novak Djokovic. With Roger Federer, a certain idea of sport was born, which tennis will try to maintain, if not reproduce.