After more than two decades of play, Roger Federer has finished his legendary tennis career. Announced on September 15, through Twitter, Federer said that he must listen to his body as it tells him that his time as a competitive player is over. Federer played his final match last Friday: a doubles match with friend and rival Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup.
As a child, Federer began his story with tennis as a ball boy in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland. Though he was talented in many sports, he chose tennis after working with Australian player Peter Carter. At age 14, Federer moved to Ecublens from Basel to train at the National Swiss Tennis Center. His first breakthrough would come at age 19 when he beat four-time defending champion, Pete Sampras, at Wimbledon. His first major single title, however, would come two years later at the 2003 Wimbledon.
Federer would go on to win seven more times at Wimbledon, six times at the Australian Open, five times at the US Open and one time at the French Open for a total of 20 major singles titles, the third most men’s major singles titles overall. He has spent a total of 310 weeks at number one, 237 of those consecutively, and became the oldest player to reach number one at age 36. Federer holds the record for the greatest number of consecutive major singles semifinals reached at 23 and has an overall singles record of 1251-275 (82%). Finally, he has never had to halt a match due to injury – a surprising fact given he’s played 1,526 singles matches and 224 doubles matches.
For his numerous wins, Federer has won over $130 million in prize money, but most of his income has been made off the court. Known for his vast number of brand sponsorships, Federer became the first active tennis player to earn more than $1 billion – one of only six athletes to do so. Even in the past three years, when injuries and surgeries have kept him largely out of play, he remained the highest-paid tennis player and was even the highest-paid athlete in 2020, according to Forbes.
For a lot of people, though, when Federer is brought up, two other names come up in the conversation: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. These three men are often referred to as the “big three” of men’s tennis, and together they have dominated the past 19 years of play. Between the three of them, they have won 63 of the past 77 major men’s singles titles, and their matches are incredibly memorable.
Federer and Nadal’s Wimbledon final in 2008 is largely considered one of the best matches in tennis history, and it is hard to forget the image of Nadal comforting a crying Federer after their 2009 Australian Open final. Likewise, Djokovic’s 2019 win over Federer at Wimbledon took almost five hours and is still seared into the brains of many of their fans. With Federer retiring, this “big three” era of tennis is finally over. While his career on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour is done, Federer has said that he would still like to play exhibition games in the future. It seems that he will also continue to be a part of the sport in other capacities as well. The Laver Cup itself is run in part through Federer’s management company TEAM8, and Federer has used a lot of his influence to put it on the ATP tour schedule. He has even confirmed that he will attend next year’s Laver Cup in Vancouver. So, although Federer has retired, tennis fans should all breathe a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that he is not stepping away from the game completely.