ROGER FEDERER ended his career as a tennis pro in tears last night – and said goodbye with an outrageous trick shot.
One of the greatest sports stars who ever lived shed his headscarf, closed his tennis bag and walked away from the streetcar lines for the last time.
In truth, he ended his career with a defeat, but the result was of little importance for the Basel player on this emotional festive evening.
For the record, bromance pair Federer and Rafa Nadal wasted a match point as they were beaten 4-6, 7-6, 11-9 by Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock on the opening night of the Laver Cup, which is being steered by his management Team.
In this emotional celebration night, the result was relatively unimportant and by and large will not matter.
But in the first set, he produced a social media meme for the ages with an incredible half-volley that sent the ball flying through a tiny HOLE in the net.
He could have tried 99 times out of 100 and it still wouldn’t have worked the way it worked.
Only a racquet wizard like Federer could do something so incredible – despite being branded illegal by the referee and the point repeated.
Despite finishing behind Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the big stakes, that one moment embodied the greatness he possessed.
The ability to hit a target few could ever dream of, seemingly bending the ball to his will.
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He certainly had adjusted the Laver Cup competition rules to his liking for that doubles bye, as technically he should have played at least a singles draw that weekend.
But his broken body, particularly the devastated right knee, prevented him from knocking his guts out in single combat.
Having fun with close pal and great rival Nadal – the duo went by the nickname Fedal – was a much easier and less tiring way to go out.
As if to underscore his longevity in the sport, American opponent Frances Tiafoe was in diapers and Jack Sock was in elementary school when Federer made his professional debut 24 years ago.
When the two teams – Team Europe and Team World – were introduced right at the start of the evening session, there were no surprises as to who got the biggest cheers.
It seemed only fitting that Federer should be the last to walk out and the standing ovation was a natural reaction from the 17,500 crowd.
It is perhaps fitting that London would be his last professional destination, a city that had seen his greatest achievements, a record eight Wimbledon crowns.
Of course, the last few days have all been carefully choreographed and marketed for the cameras, especially since a documentary team has been following his every move.
You can’t move around O2 without coming across a billboard promoting one of Federer’s many blue-chip sponsors.
But given his accomplishments in the sport, the standards he’s set, the joy he’s given millions with that one-handed backhand, he arguably earned the right to go out on his terms.
Although it was after 10pm when the tie finally got underway – Andy Murray’s one-on-one had everyone waiting – the demand to be here was huge with some tickets being listed at £55,000 on resale sites.
At times, the crowd caught a glimpse of the aging Maestro’s ancient magic.
A lightning-fast volley at the net, serves that flew at 110 mph, expertly timed winners, the impeccable soft hands.
On other fleeting occasions, it was reminded that Federer too is human, can make mistakes and father cannot overcome time.
Unlike the big rock stars that have performed at this venue, Federer will not have an encore.
After 24 years, 20 slams, various knee operations and millions of memories, the time had really come.
And just in time for everyone to catch the last subway home.
Murray may not have been able to pull off a win for Team Europe as he lost to Team World’s Alex de Minaur 5-7 6-3 10-7.
But the Scot said the chance to play ahead of Federer’s final – as well as receive coaching from the Big Three – will be seen as a career highlight.
Murray, 35, said: “It was amazing. One of the special matches I’ve ever played. Something I will remember for a long time.”
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6292610/roger-federer-retires-rafa-nadal-laver-cup/ Roger Federer breaks down in tears in the last tennis match ever after a stunning career of 20 Grand Slam titles