Roger Federer of Switzerland walks off the court after losing to Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in their Men’s Singles Quarter-finals tennis match during the 2019 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York on September 3, 2019. (Photo by Don Emmert / AFP)
Roger Federer will hang up his racket as one of the greatest and most-loved sportspeople in history. The Swiss icon, 41, has announced his decision to retire from competitive tennis after the Laver Cup in London next week.
After 20 Grand Slam titles, 1,251 matches won and more than £113million in career prize money, the curtain will fall on one of the most illustrious careers in sporting history.
Federer won Wimbledon eight times, more than any other player, and reigned as World no. 1 for 310 weeks, including a record-breaking 237 consecutive weeks.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic ensured Federer’s remarkable talent did not go unchallenged and both have suprassed the Swiss’ Grand Slam tally.
However, few would argue that there has ever been a better tennis player than Federer in full flow.
A beautiful elegance on the court, led by that trademark one-handed backhand, made Federer a privilege to watch.
And that class transcended off the court to make him one of the most likeable people in sport.
Ex-star Andy Roddick once said: “He’s a real person. He’s not an enigma. Off the court he’s not trying to be somebody.
“If you met him at McDonald’s and you didn’t know who he was, you would have no idea that he’s one of the best athletes in the world.”
And British tennis icon Andy Murray once paid tribute to his close friend in typically drole fashion.
“I can cry like Roger, it’s just a shame I can’t play like him,” he famously said.
But beyond the world of tennis, Federer inspired superstars across the board.
Manchester United sensation Cristiano Ronaldo has pointed to Federer as an example for atheltes trying to compete in the latter years of their career.
He said: “In sport, you can gain maturity. Look at Federer in tennis. He’s 37 or 38 years old and he’s still at his peak.”
Ronaldo is not the only one. Golf legend Tiger Woods also took inspiration from Federer to come back and triumph against all odds.
After Federer won the 2017 Australian Open by beating Nadal after a six-month injury lay-off, Woods was recovering from 16 months out due to multiple back surgeries and seeking a first Major title since 2008.
“As you get older, you change your game and you do things slightly differently, and he did that,” Woods said of Federer.
“Am I going to do that? Yeah, I’m not going to be hitting balls like some of these guys, 340, out there.”
Woods added: “What Rog has done is he’s been dominant for so long.
“To compete against [Djokovic], to compete against Rafa, and now Andy [Murray] is playing well. He’s had a litany of guys who have won slams. And no one wins slams at his age.
“And for him to come back, after having to take that much time off, and for him to get the timing, that’s the hardest part.”
Woods would go on to win the Masters in 2019 at the age of 43.
In boxing, British heavyweight Anthony Joshua once admitted he wanted to be the Federer of his sport.
Speaking as world champion in 2017, Joshua said: “Before I was happy to just be a part of boxing, and felt wherever I get to, it was always better than where I started. I never had a minute to reflect.
“But now I want to stamp my mark and my legacy, and be among the likes of Federer.
“If I want to be considered like these guys, I have to carry myself the right way.
“I want to be like the Ronaldos, Messis, Federers who compete with Nadal, Murray. That’s where I want to take boxing.”
Game recognises game, it is why the likes of Michael Jordan and Serena Williams have also waxed lyrical about Federer.
“I think he looks so smooth,” Jordan commented in 2014. “You know, I’ve seen him on TV. I’ve seen a lot of tennis on TV.
“But you never really understand how smooth and how relaxed and how fundamentally sound that he can make this game look.”
And Williams, who also retired this summer, summed it up perfectly last year.”I think two words sum it up: Roger Federer,” Williams said of his legacy.
“He’s just a synopsis of greatness and class and amazing and really changed the game.
“You see players playing like him, moving like him, doing his techniques. The guy is [a] genius.”
She added: “I just feel like he is really the greatest player. Just look at him.
“You can’t not like the guy, that’s how I feel. His game is so fantastic. If I could only play like him!”
The greatest athletes in history reserve a special kind of praise for their equals – and they all know Federer is among them.