Roger Federer, the 20-time grand slam champion and one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 41.
The eight-time Wimbledon winner will play his final event at the Laver Cup in London next weekend after a 24-year career that saw the Swiss not only dominate tennis but do so with a style and grace that transcended the sport.
His rivalries with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will be remembered as perhaps the greatest era of men’s tennis and Federer will hold a special place in the history of Wimbledon after winning a record eight men’s titles.
Federer has not played since his quarter-final exit at Wimbledon last year and has since undergone several knee surgeries. Although he teased a possible return when appearing at Centre Court’s 100-year celebrations in July, he has now confirmed he will retire from professional tennis following next weekend’s Laver Cup at the O2 Arena – an event that will see him play alongside Team Europe colleagues Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Federer said in a statement: “Today, I want to share some news with you all. As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form.
“But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear. I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognise when it is time to end my competitive career.
“The Laver Cup next week in London will be my final ATP event. I will play more tennis in the future, of course, but just not in grand slams or on the tour.”
In a legendary career, Federer also won five US Opens, six Australian Opens, and completed the career grand slam by winning his only French Open in 2009. He held the position of world No 1 for a record 237 consecutive weeks.
Federer also became the first male player to reach 20 grand slam singles titles, a feat that has since been surpassed by both Nadal and Djokovic. But away from statistics, it was the beauty of Federer’s game and his single-handed backhand that will see him remembered as perhaps the greatest player of his era.
Federer also defied time by continuing to play at the highest level until his late thirties. He returned from his first knee surgery in 2016 to play some of the best tennis of his career, defeating Nadal to win the 2017 Australian Open and Marin Cilic to win that record eighth Wimbledon crown. His last grand slam title came at the 2018 Australian Open, while he reached his last Wimbledon final the following year, losing in a championship tiebreak to Djokovic in an all-time-great contest.
“This is a bittersweet decision because I will miss everything the tour has given me,” Federer continued. “But at the same time, there is so much to celebrate. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis and I did it at a level that I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible.
“The last 24 years on tour have been an incredible adventure. While it sometimes feels like it went by in 24 hours, it has also been so deep and magical that it seems as if I’ve already lived a full lifetime. I have had the immense fortune to play in front of you in over 40 different countries. I have laughed and cried, felt joy and pain, and most of all I have felt incredibly alive.
“When my love of tennis started, I was a ball kid in my hometown of Basel. I used to watch the players with a sense of wonder. They were like giants to me and I began to dream. My dreams led me to work harder and I started to believe in myself. Some success brought me confidence and I was on my way to the most amazing journey that has led to this day. So, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart, to everyone around the world who has helped make the dreams of a young Swiss ball kid come true.”
Federer won his first grand slam title at Wimbledon in 2003 as a 21-year-old, starting a run of five consecutive titles at the All England Club as well as a spell of dominance over the sport. The emergence of Nadal sparked a fascinating rivalry and their duel in the darkness in the 2008 Wimbledon final will be remembered as one of the best of all time. With Djokovic also reaching Federer and Nadal’s level, the era of the big three and the titantic battles they shared then defined men’s tennis for a decade. After regaining top spot in the rankings in 2018, Federer became the oldest world No 1 in history at the age of 36.
His retirement follows what is expected to be Serena Williams’s final appearance at the US Open earlier this month. The 23-time grand slam champion, who shares a legendary status along with Federer, explained her plans to “evolve” away from tennis but Federer was more conclusive with his announcement, signing off: “Finally, to the game of tennis: I love you and I will never leave you.”