Roger Federer’s final match before retirement ended in defeat as he lost out to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe alongside Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup.
There were emotional scenes after the match in front of a sell-out crowd at The O2 in London, with some spending thousands of pounds just to catch a final glimpse of Federer, as tennis fans waved goodbye to one of the game’s true greats.
Every point he won, every time he was called to serve and every time videos of him played over the main screens, Federer was met with widespread cheering from adoring supporters in a carnival atmosphere, with many screams of ‘We love you, Roger’ and plenty of signs with messages of love for the Swiss legend.
Federer, 41, won 20 Grand Slam titles over the course of his illustrious career, including eight Wimbledon trophies, and confirmed plans to retire last week.
He decided not to take part in Laver Cup singles amid injury fears, with Federer having been out of professional action since Wimbledon 2021 before tonight.
That saw his final match take place in doubles alongside old foe Nadal, with the pair – who have won an incredible 42 Grand Slam singles titles between them – beaten by the American duo of Sock and Tiafoe on Friday night, who won 4-6 7-6 (11-9).
Tears could be seen streaming down Federer’s face as he took a seat after the match ended and behind him Nadal could also be seen crying.
‘We’ll get through this somehow,’ said an emotional Federer as he was called over for his post-match interview.
‘It’s been a wonderful day. I told the guys: I’m happy, I’m not sad. I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time. Everything was the last time.
‘And funny enough, with all the matches and having the guys being here – fans, family, friends – I didn’t feel the stress so much, even though I did think [an injury might happen] in the match.
‘So I am so happy I made it through. The match was great. I couldn’t be happier. It’s been wonderful.
‘And of course, playing with Rafa on the same team and having the guys – everybody here, all the legends – Rocket, Edberg, Stefan, thank you.’
Quizzed on ending his career playing with the likes of Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at the Laver Cup, Federer added: ‘I didn’t want it to feel lonely out there!
‘It felt lonely for a second when they told me to go out, or you wanted me to come out one more time.
‘I feel great, but to be saying goodbye as a team – I always felt I was a team player at the heart – but singles doesn’t really do that a whole lot.
‘I’ve had a team that travelled with me for around the world. It’s been amazing with them.
‘So thanks to everybody who made it work for so many years. And then of course, being on the team with Andy, Thomas, Novak, Mateo, Cam, Stefanos, Rafa and Casper and also the other team: you guys are unbelievable.
‘It’s been a pleasure, playing all these Laver Cups. It does feel like a celebration to me. I wanted it to feel like this at the end and it’s exactly what I hoped for. So thank you.’
Federer and Nadal’s loss sees Team World claw it back to 2-2 in the overall Laver Cup standings, following Murray’s defeat to Alex de Minaur earlier in the evening and wins for Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud in Friday’s day session.
The winner of the fifth Laver Cup – founded by Federer in 2017 – will be crowned when one team reaches a total of 13 points, with Friday’s matches worth one point, Saturday’s matches worth two and Sunday’s matches worth three.
Team Europe has won every tournament so far and this year’s line-up includes Federer, Nadal, Murray, Tsitsipas, Ruud, Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini.
Day one action was interrupted on Friday when a climate change activist burst onto the court and lit his right arm on fire during Tsitsipas’ match against Diego Schwartzman.
The protester wore a white t-shirt which read ‘end UK private jets’ and he was dragged off the court by members of security with both players, match officials and fans left unharmed.
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