Published On: Wed, Sep 21st, 2022

Federer Says He Will Close Career With Doubles Match at Laver Cup

Federer, who announced his retirement last week, hinted his final competitive tennis could come Friday. And it is likely to be alongside his longtime rival Rafael Nadal.

Roger Federer said one final doubles match in London this week would serve as his farewell to competitive tennis. Credit…Julian Finney/Getty Images For Laver Cup

LONDON — Once he decided his competitive career was over, Roger Federer said, it was just a matter of scripting the perfect ending.

For months, he and those closest to him kept his secret. He had considered announcing his retirement before the U.S. Open, he said Wednesday, but knew he would not attend and preferred “a chance to properly say goodbye to the fans.” He had pondered doing so during the tournament, but by then Serena Williams had announced her own retirement. That meant another month of waiting.

Finally, last week, Federer told the world his news: He would play one final tournament, at the Laver Cup in London this week, and that would be that. On Wednesday, he said would go out “happy” but not satisfied, and on his own terms.

“I always feel sorry for players who sometimes retire on the tour, say, ‘I’m going to play one more match,’ and then at one point you stand there all alone,” he said.

Federer will instead go out surrounded by the players, family, friends and fans that have meant the most to him in his career. His final match will come Friday, a one-night-only doubles appearance in which he is expected to team up with his longtime friend and foe Rafael Nadal.

“I just thought it was very fitting,” Federer said of finishing his career in London, the city where he won a record eight Wimbledon singles titles.

Federer revealed Wednesday that he had known since the summer that his career as a singles champion was finished, whether he liked it not. He was about a year into his rehabilitation from his latest knee injury and he could feel it was getting more difficult. He knew pushing on would take more than he was willing to give, and potentially require yet another surgery that he had already decided he would not accept.

“At some point you sit down and go, OK, we are at an intersection here, a crossroad, and you have to take a turn,” he said. “Which way is it?

“I was not willing to go in the direction of, let’s risk it all. I’m not ready for that.” He had, he said on Tuesday, “stopped believing” he could rehabilitate his latest knee injury enough to continue at a level he would accept.

“I know my limitations,” Federer said. Appearing relaxed and calm in a blue blazer and white golf shirt, he appeared at ease with his decision and in control of his emotions — much to his relief, he admitted — but acknowledged that even he could not be sure how he would perform.

“Obviously, I’m nervous going in, because I haven’t played in so long,” he said. “I hope it can be somewhat competitive.”

Federer trained with Stefanos Tsitsipas on Tuesday, but said Wednesday that he would play only doubles at the Laver Cup.Credit…Clive Brunskill/Getty Images For Laver Cup

His pairing with Nadal may be the tournament’s worst-kept secret: Both players hinted at reprising their so-called Fedal doubles team in February when they committed to play in the Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event in which competitors representing a Team Europe and a Team World square off in team play.

Federer’s desire to play only doubles presented a rules problem, though; the competition rules require players to compete in at least one singles match, and his opting out required the approval of both team captains as well as tournament and ATP Tour officials, since the cup is a tour event.

Federer, who helped create the Laver Cup as part of his billion-dollar business empire, said Wednesday that he had first sought the permission of the European captain, Bjorn Borg. When Borg agreed, they brought the idea to the World captain, John McEnroe, and to tour officials to ensure that his accommodation also had their approval. Federer said the Italian star Matteo Berrettini would replace him in the singles matches.

Asked about reports that he was planning to team with Nadal in his own final match, though, Federer was coy since the matchups will not be confirmed until Thursday.

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