The end of an era as Roger Federer announces his retirement from professional tennis
By The Podium News
19 Sept 2022
It was a day that many hoped would never come but when Roger Federer announced that he is to step away from the professional tennis circuit following the Laver Cup next month, instant clamouring’s were made as to where the Swiss great stands in the pantheon of all time tennis players.
The Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer triumvirate has completely revolutionised the tennis landscape and all three have them have left an undeniable mark on the game.
Federer’s retirement in that respect is hardly a surprise, with both Nadal and Djokovic having a few years on Federer, he was always expected to be the one that hung up his racket first.
Perhaps the element of surprise surrounding the announcement was that Roger Federer will conclude his career with less Grand Slam titles in the bank than both Nadal and Djokovic.
Since he first burst onto the scene with his ‘Changing of the Guard’ win over Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001, the general consensus within the world of tennis and beyond was that Federer will always be remembered as the greatest men’s player to have ever played the game.
Of course, there are plenty of arguments for Federer being indeed the best there has ever been but in the statistics driven sporting society in which we live, Federer winding up with a Grand Slam singles haul fewer than both Nadal and Djokovic couldn’t have been foreseen for large parts of his career.
Wimbledon always held a special place for Federer, who won the Boy’s Singles Title as a junior, before his historic win over Sampras in 2001, leading on to his maiden Grand Slam title win at SW19 in 2003.
His love affair with South West London continued, with Federer winning the title consecutively between 2003 and 2007, seeing off the likes of Andy Roddick and an emerging Nadal in some of the greatest finals ever seen in the professional game.
With lightening quick reactions at the net, a sense of grace and style seldom seen before and an arrow like serve, Federer just looked to be born to play tennis on grass and there are few more iconic images in world sport than Federer running the show at Wimbledon throughout the mid-2000’s.
Asserting his dominance away from the familiarity and comfort of Wimbledon was Federer’s next task, as the man from Switzerland became the number one player in the world and he looked to have no real competitors emerging.
Andy Roddick fought hard but ultimately couldn’t keep up, Lleyton Hewitt found the Fed Express too much to handle by his own admission and the likes of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras had enjoyed their best days on tour.
US Open and Australian Open titles followed in their droves throughout the mid-2000’s, as Federer was the world’s number one tennis player for a record 237 consecutive weeks.
There was one Grand Slam however that remained elusive, the French Open, a tournament that would in many ways define the Roger Federer legacy.
Whilst certainly not a clay court specialist by any means, Federer was expected to complete the career Grand Slam on multiple occasions during the mid-2000’s at Roland Garros but the emergence of Rafael Nadal often proved to be a barrier too great for Federer.
Consecutive French Open final defeats to the Majorcan in 2006, 2007 and 2008 were indicative of the struggles Federer endured on the dirt and the confidence Nadal gained from these results also inspired the Spaniard to take the Wimbledon crown away from Federer in 2008.
However, in 2009 Roger Federer achieved the career Grand Slam at the French Open, beating Swede Robin Soderling in the final to etch his name further into the annuls of tennis playing history.
Federer’s 4th Australian Open title win at the start of 2010 proved to be somewhat of a false dawn for the Swiss legend moving into the 2010’s.
A 7th title was claimed at Wimbledon in 2012, with an Olympic Silver medal in the same year in London but Federer battled hard with injuries and saw the emergence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray as another challenge to have to overcome.
Many felt Federer was on his way out of top level tennis between 2013 and 2015 with a string of indifferent results at Grand Slams seeing him lose his status as one of the top 3 players in the world but inevitably, writing off Roger Federer was not a wise thing to do.
A condensed schedule, designed to enable Federer to maximise his playing strengths at key events paid off, as he won the Australian Open in both 2017 and 2018, as well as a record breaking 8th Wimbledon men’s singles title in 2017.
He came agonisingly close to a 9th title at SW19 in 2019, where he was pipped by Novak Djokovic in an all-time epic, in what proved to be his final Grand Slam singles final, reaching 31 in total, with 20 wins and 11 losses.
As he walks away from the game, many will point to the Grand Slam hauls of Nadal (22) and Djokovic (21) and look to place Federer as third on that list with 20 Grand Slam titles.
But without Roger Federer, both Nadal and Djokovic have said they would not be where they are today – a tennis playing visionary, who’s style, balletic grace and seemingly limitless talent, combined with an insatiable appetite to win, will always see him as one of the greatest players to have ever played professional tennis.