At the age of 41, Roger Federer announced his retirement, saying the Laver Cup in London, September 23 through 25, will be the last of his remarkable career. He will be part of Team Europe along with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray. Citing knee injuries and multiple surgeries, the “Swiss Maestro” walks away from the game he dominated.
Federer began a rapid climb up the men’s ranking in the late 1990’s, before breaking through in 2003 with his first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon. He’d follow that up by winning three of the next four Grand Slams with only the French Open La Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy escaping him that season.
The single most dominant men’s player the world of tennis has ever witnessed was part of that ‘Golden Age’ where the wins were plentiful, the names were household, and the matches were legendary. Now, the game has a void to fill. With youth on the horizon, the next generation has work to do.
Federer Exits The Sport He Dominated
“I am 41 years old, I have played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years,” Federer said in an audio clip posted on social media. “Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamed and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.” Courtesy of Christopher Clarey New York Times.
To my tennis family and beyond,
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) September 15, 2022
Born August 8th, 1981 in Basel, Switzerland, Federer was ranked world No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals for 310 weeks, including a number one record 237 consecutive weeks. He has also finished his season ranked number one five times in his career. He has won 103 ATP singles titles, 20 Grand Slam singles titles, eight men’s singles Wimbledon titles (record), five U.S Open’s (record-tying), and six ATP Tour Finals season-ending championships (record).
His overall singles career record is 1,251 wins with 275 losses, for a winning percentage of 82%. He would also add a Silver Medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
As a junior player, his most significant accomplishment came at Wimbledon in 1998, where he won the boys’ singles final over Irakli Labadze. He would reach the U.S. Open Junior Final that same year, losing to David Nalbandian in New York. He would end 1998 with the number one junior World Ranking and was awarded the ITF junior World Champion. He ended his junior career at the end of that season ranked number one in singles.
Roger Federer would enter the top 100 rankings for the first time on the 20th of September 1999. That same year at the Marseille Open he defeated Carlos Moyá from Spain. His first final would come at the same event one year later, where he would lose to Marc Rosset of Switzerland.
In 2001, Federer would finally win his first singles event at the Milan Indoor Tournament by beating Julien Boutter in the final. He would make his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the 2001 French Open, losing to former world number two and eventual finalist Àlex Corretja. His appearance in the French quarterfinals launched him into the top 15 for the first time in his career. Yet the best was still to come.
His big breakthrough would happen at the 2001 Wimbledon Championships. The 19-year-old would face the four-time defending champion and all-time Grand Slam leader Pete Sampras. Federer would beat the number one seed in a five-set match to reach the quarterfinals where he would ultimately lose in a four-set tiebreaker to Englishman Tim Henman.
In 2003, Federer would finally claim his first Grand Slam singles title when he defeated Andy Rodick in the semifinal and Mark Philippoussis in the final at Wimbledon. In August of that year, he would have an opportunity to claim the No. 1 ranking for the first time in his young career from reigning number one Andre Agassi. Instead, he would fall to Rodick in Montreal. Coupled with early losses to David Nalbandian at Cincinnati and at the US Open, Federer was denied the chance to become number one for the balance of the season.
In 2004, Federer would begin to apply his dominance in men’s tennis. He would win three Grand Slam singles titles. His first came on the hard courts of the Australian Open where he defeated Marat Safin, making him the World number one. He would follow that with a second Wimbledon title by beating American Andy Rodick. Federer would then go on to win his first U.S. Open when he took down Lleyton Hewitt in the final.
He wasn’t done yet for 2004.
Federer would also win three ATP Masters events, including one on clay in Hamburg, Germany. The last two were on the hard surfaces of Indian Wells and in Canada. He then won the ATP 500 series event at Dubai and wrapped the season by winning the year-end ATP Championships for the second time. He would also capture his first tournament on home soil when he won the Swiss Open in Gstaad. His 11 singles titles were the most of any player in two decades. His record of 74–6 was the best since Czechoslovakian Ivan Lendl in 1986.
2005 saw two Grand Slam losses to open his season. He would lose in the Australian and French Open before reestablishing his dominance on grass, winning his third Wimbledon by beating Rodick. He would return to Flushing, NY and win another U.S.Open, sending Andre Aggasi into retirement. Federer won 11 singles titles to tie his 2004 season. Federer’s 81 match victories were the most since American Pete Sampras in 1993. His record of 81–4 remains the third-best winning percentage in the Open Era behind only John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
2006 was a statistical bonanza in Federer’s career. He would win 12 singles titles, the most since Thomas Muster in 1995 and American bad boy John McEnroe in 1984. He also had an astonishing record of 92-5 that season, the best since Ivan Lendl in 1982. Perhaps most amazing, he would reach the finals in 16 out of the 17 tournaments he entered.
Federer would win another three Grand Slams: the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. The only Slam he would miss out on was the French Open at Stade Roland Garros. The second of the four major events has also been the most elusive. For a career, he is only 1–4 on the red clay. Wimbledon however, was a whole different animal. The four-time defending champion was riding a 48–match winning streak on the grass, and again he would defeat Rafael Nadal for a second straight year in London. From 2007 to 2022, he would add another nine Grand Slam titles, including an Australian Open win and another at Wimbledon in 2017, and a 6th Australian Championship in 2018.
The Swiss Legend Exits The Game
In 2022, the sport lost two great champions and standard bearers in the world of tennis as both Serena Williams and now Roger Federer would take their leave. Know that a significant void will be felt. Men’s tennis has seen a rise in some fine play from a new generation of players. Casper Rudd of Norway, Reilly Opelka from the United States, and Carlos Alcaraz, an 18-year-old from Spain. There are others, too. But will they be akin to the “Swiss Maestro”? Only time will tell.
Is Federer the best ever in the men’s game? It’s a good debate, especially when you look at the era he played in, and the players who preceded him. Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, even Andy Rodick are all names worthy of consideration. What we can say is the game won’t be the same, as we wait for the second coming of great men’s tennis.