London, Sep 24 (EFE).- Swiss tennis great Roger Federer said an emotional goodbye to professional tennis at the Laver Cup in London’s O2 arena early Saturday.
Federer entered retirement after he and Spanish doubles partner, friend and longtime rival Rafael Nadal were defeated by American pair Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 11-9 in a thrilling end to the annual team Europe vs World event just past midnight.
The tearful 41-year-old received a standing ovation as he put down his racquet and hugged Nadal and players.
“It’s been a wonderful day. I’m happy, not sad. It feels great to be here,” he said in an on-court interview in which he took short breaks to gather himself. “I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time and everything was the last time.”
“I’m happy I made it through. The match was great, I couldn’t be happier. It’s been wonderful.”
Federer had revealed earlier this month that this match – his first in 14 months – would be his last after years plagued by injuries.
He was supported by Team Europe players Novak Djokovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Andy Murray and Matteo Berrettini, vice-captain Thomas Enqvist and captain Bjorn Bjorg.
“To be saying goodbye on a team, I always felt I was a team player at heart. Singles doesn’t really do that but I’ve had a team that traveled with me around the world. It’s been amazing with them, so thanks to everybody who made it work for so many years,” he said.
“And then of course being on the team with Andy, Thomas, Novak, Matteo, Cam, Stefanos, Rafa and Casper… and also the other team, you guys are unbelievable. It’s been a pleasure playing all these Laver Cups.
“It does feel like a celebration to me. I wanted to feel like this at the end, and it’s exactly what I hoped for, so thank you.”
The 20-time grand slam champion bowed out as one of the greatest players in the world, having taken home 103 ATP singles titles.
Cheering him on in the 17,500-capacity sold-out crowd were his parents Robert and Lynette, wife Mirka and their four children, as well as tennis legend Rod Laver and celebrities such as Hugh Grant and Anna Wintour.
Federer also paid tribute to Mirka in his speech, saying “my wife has been so supportive. She could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn’t. She kept me going and allowed me to play, so it’s amazing – thank you.”
Mirka and their children joined Federer on the court during the celebration in which Ellie Goulding sang, and he was held aloft by fellow players and did a lap of honor.
“It’s been the perfect journey. I’d do it all again,” he said. EFE