Roger Federer stopped believing he could continue playing at the highest level, which led to his retirement in London this weekend.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who underwent knee surgery after Wimbledon last year in a bid to return to elite tennis, last week announced plans to walk away from the sport after the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena.
A scan a few months ago effectively launched talk of retirement within his family and team, with the announcement made on Friday.
“The last three years have been tough,” Federer told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday. “I knew I was on very thin ice for the last year, ever since I played Wimbledon. I tried to come back but there was a limit to what I could do. And I stopped believing in it to be honest.”
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There had been doubts that Federer would even be fit enough to play in the Laver Cup but he said yesterday he had been practising well and intended to compete in the doubles, where he could renew his partnership with Rafael Nadal.
Federer had hoped to return to full form and fitness for one final tilt at Wimbledon last summer and in 2023, when the injury failed to heal as quickly as he had hoped.
Giving up on that dream, he admitted, had been hard to accept. He said: “It’s been an emotional few weeks. I always pushed my retirement thoughts away. I said, the more I think about it, the more I’m already halfway retired and this is not the way to go to work, you know, for me as a tennis player, so we’ll deal with it when it comes. And I did, I dealt with it.”
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Federer will end his career third on the all-time list of men’s Grand Slam titles behind Nadal’s 22 and the 21 of Novak Djokovic, both of whom are playing alongside him for Team Europe this week. He has won 103 ATP Tour titles in total.
Reflecting on his illustrious career, the Swiss player admitted: “I don’t think anybody grows up and thinks they’re going to win this much. You know, you’re happy with winning a Wimbledon title, which is already crazy or becoming number one, being the best.
“But then you don’t think how many weeks, this is only the media and the fans talking about breaking records.
“Before it was just, I hope to be on tour one day, just to make it into the top 100 is a huge deal. Coming from a small country, we don’t have a base of so many players. I totally overachieved in my mind. It’s been an absolute dream that I’ve had for so long. And I know that, and that’s why I’m totally happy to step away as well.”
As for life in retirement, the 41-year-old insisted his focus was now on his wife Mirka and the couple’s four children, and he is adamant he has not thought much beyond a family holiday together.
“I always tried to keep a clean slate for when I retire because I do have four children and they’re amazing and they need my help,” he said. “And my wife, too, she’s always been by my side throughout. So, it’s a little bit let’s see what they all want to do and what we should do. But I still have to figure things out a little bit.”