'I would do it all over again. It's been great. It's been so much fun. It's been amazing. Thank you, everybody,' Federer said in his farewell speech.
It was a sight that said more about sportsmanship and camaraderie on the court than any heartfelt speech could have. One of sports' greatest rivalries came to an emotional end at the Laver Cup in London on Friday as tennis icon Roger Federer bid farewell to his career with one final doubles match alongside Rafael Nadal for Team Europe. The duo put up a valiant effort against Team World's Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock at the O2 Arena and although they fell short 4-6, 7-6 (2), 11-9, it was a memorable night in the sport's history nonetheless as Federer wept in the face of an overwhelming outpouring of love and support.
All the emotions at Roger Federer's final match of his remarkable career 🥺 pic.twitter.com/OINmohb8cI— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) September 24, 2022
"It was never supposed to be that way," Federer said in his farewell speech, reports PEOPLE. "I was just happy to play tennis and spend time with my friends, really. And then I ended up here. It's been a perfect journey. I would do it all over again. It's been great. It's been so much fun. It's been amazing. Thank you, everybody. I've had so many people cheer me on, and you guys here tonight mean the world." Federer wasn't the only one to tear up as his days as a professional player came to an end. His great rival, Nadal, wept alongside the new retiree on what he later described as a difficult night for him too.
"When Roger leaves the tour, yeah, an important part of my life is leaving too because all the moments he has been next or in front me in important moments of my life," Nadal said, reports CNN. "So has been emotional (to) see the family, see all the people. Yeah, difficult to describe. But [an] amazing moment." The legendary pair has bagged a combined 42 grand slam victories—with Federer winning 20 and Nadal winning 22—in the years since they played their first match with each other in March 2004 at the Miami Masters.
I think we still didn't realize what happened last night. Roger Federer is now a former player and he taught us a lesson again. Values like friendship, respect, empathy were predominant. Him and Nadal, friends and rival, literally annihilate toxic masculinity. Beautiful. pic.twitter.com/GGuJpmPqHl— Relevant Tennis | Stats & Info (@RelevantTennis) September 24, 2022
"The last two days have been tough to say the least," Federer said in his post-match press conference last week, reports The Guardian. "Thankfully in moments I totally forgot about it, slept great, everything was wonderful, I could enjoy it, I feel. And because of that, I think I will be able to have a better recollection of how it went. Because if it's all just stress throughout and I want it to be only perfect, I know I will remember half of it. Because I felt the way I felt, I feel like I have dealt with my retirement strongly for the last month." He also thanked his wife, Mirka Federer.
The 41-year-old announced his decision to retire earlier this month, informing fans that the Laver Cup would be the end of a 24-year career. "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 and competitive form," he said in a video shared on Twitter. "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've played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years."