Roger Federer was in floods of tears despite tasting defeat in the final match of his professional career alongside his doubles partner Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup in London.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion teamed up with old rival Nadal for his last match in London but saw his dream finale ruined by Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, who won 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 11-9 to dampen spirits in front of a capacity crowd at the O2.
Federer enjoyed a lengthy hug with old adversary Nadal at the conclusion of the match before he was given one final standing ovation despite the clock being well beyond midnight.
“We’ll get through this somehow,” Federer said on-court. “Look, it has been a wonderful day. I told the guys I’m happy, I’m not sad. It feels great to be here and I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time.
“Everything was the last time. Funny enough with all the matches, being with the guys and having family and friends, I didn’t feel the stress so much even if I felt something would go during the match. I am so glad I made it through and the match was great. I couldn’t be happier.
“Of course playing with Rafa on the same team, having all the guys here, the legends, Rocket (Rod Laver), Stefan Edberg, thank you.
“It does feel like a celebration to me. I wanted to feel like this at the end and it is exactly what I hoped for so thank you.
“It has been a perfect journey and I would do it all over again…”
Federer had started to roll back the years but he could not maintain a strong start with Team World able to level up the scores after Team Europe had opened up a 2-0 lead at the start of the day.
This Ryder Cup-style team competition was the brainchild of the Swiss star and first started in 2017 with a format which sees six of the best players from Europe take on six counterparts from the rest of the world across a mixture of singles and doubles contests over three days.
Federer had to bend his own rules to feature in only a doubles contest due to his troublesome knee injury but produced several highlights in two hours and 14 minutes of action before he bowed out from competitive tennis.
American duo Sock and Tiafoe, pantomime villains for the night, tested Federer’s reactions with some lusty blows aimed at the Swiss maestro who would have demanded nothing less.
Federer was equal to pretty much everything though, his silky shot-making and nimble footwork very much intact despite such a long time away from the match court.
The pair, otherwise knows as ‘Fedal’, with a combined age of 77 and 42 Grand Slam titles between them edged the opening set by breaking Tiafoe’s serve.
After they fell a break down early in the second, Federer and Nadal stormed back and looked poised for a straight sets win but were instead dragged into a tense deciding tie-break.
Chants of ‘Let’s Go Roger, Let’s Go’ resounded around the venue as Federer and Nadal clawed their way towards a victory the occasion demanded and despite the Swiss sending down a 116mph ace and a delightful deft drop shot, they eventually fell agonisingly short.
The Swiss great thanked wife Mirka, who has watched him battle through a succession of knee operations before he finally admitted defeat in his pursuit to come back last week.
He added: “Thank you everybody. I’ve had so many people cheer me on and you guys here tonight mean the world.
“My wife has been so supportive… she could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn’t. She kept me going and allowed me to play so thank you. She is amazing.”
Federer’s career in numbers
- 20 – Grand Slam titles
- 31 – Grand Slam finals
- 23 – consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals from 2004 to 2010, an all-time record
- 36 – consecutive appearances in Grand Slam quarter-finals
- 65 – consecutive Grand Slam appearances from the Australian Open in 2000 to the French Open in 2016
- 8 – Wimbledon titles, the most of any man
- 6 – Australian Open titles
- 5 – US Open titles
- 1 – French Open title
- 1,251 – career matches won out of 1,526
- 369 – match wins in Grand Slams
- 22 – consecutive appearances at Wimbledon
- 310 – weeks spent at world No 1, 237 of them consecutively
- 36 – at 36 years and 320 days, Federer was the oldest world No 1 in ATP history
- 5 – Federer has reached the final at every Grand Slam at least five times
- 103 – career titles, second in the Open era behind Jimmy Connors
- 6 – titles won at the ATP Finals, an all-time record
- 10 – titles won at the ATP events in Basle and Halle
- 12 – titles won in 2006, his most successful season
- 92 – matches won from 97 played in 2006
- 65 – consecutive matches won on grass from 2003 to 2008
- 3 – Federer reached the finals of all the Grand Slams in three different seasons
- 2 – Olympic medals; gold in doubles with Stan Wawrinka in 2008 and silver in singles in 2012
- 24 – losses to his great rival Rafael Nadal from 40 matches
- 130,594,339 – career prize money (US dollars)
- 550million – estimated net worth (USD)
A marathon two-hour-and-29-minute clash between Andy Murray and Alex de Minaur kicked off the evening session with the Team World player winning 5-7 6-3 10-7 to get the visitors on the board.
Double Wimbledon champion Murray had displayed plenty of his trademark defence during a lengthy battle but it was the Australian who held his nerve in the 10-point tie-breaker.
“I just wanted to do anything I could to get the win for my team and I managed to find a way,” de Minaur said on-court.
“I don’t know how much tactics were out there. It was be ready for a battle and for however long it took. Andy is a hell of a player, he has done so much for the sport and it is just great to have him around.”