Laver Cup preview: Roger Federer’s final match before retirement

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LONDON — After 24 years on Tour, with 20 Grand Slam titles and 103 tournament wins worldwide to his name, Roger Federer will play his final professional match on Friday night, when he partners with his old rival Rafael Nadal in the doubles at the sixth edition of the Laver Cup.

The event, created by Federer and his agent, Tony Godsick, pits teams of six players against each other. Alongside Federer and Nadal on Team Europe will be Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray — the first time the Big Four have all played at the Laver Cup at the same time. Here’s what you’ll want to know as we get ready for Federer’s final match.

Federer’s farewell

Last week, Federer announced his decision to retire from tennis, after confirming that his recovery from right knee surgery, in 2021, had not been as good as he had hoped.

It brings an end to the career of one of the all-time greats of men’s tennis. Federer won eight Wimbledon titles, six Australian Opens, five US Opens and one French Open title, dominating men’s tennis for many years.

The 41-year-old, who says he hopes to play exhibition matches in the future and has promised to stay close to tennis, said on Thursday he was looking forward to playing with Nadal, a man whom he met on 40 occasions, including nine Grand Slam finals.

“Of course it’s super-special playing with Rafa,” Federer said. “It feels really different. Walking out on court and having the chance to play with the likes of Rafa or Novak in the past has been an amazing experience for me. To be able to do that one more time, I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful. I’ll try my very best. I hope to be good out there. Of course I will enjoy it, but it will be hard.”

Nadal said he can’t wait.

“After all we shared together on and off the court, to be part of this historic moment is going to be something amazing, unforgettable for me,” he said.

The Big Four together

For the first time, the Laver Cup brings together Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.

The quartet have won 66 Grand Slam titles and 329 tournaments among them, and played out numerous Grand Slam finals.

Federer said having them on his side was a nice change.

“I am super excited to have them on our team, my team and not having to play against them, in my last match,” he said.

Murray, scheduled to play on Friday before Federer and Nadal’s doubles match, agreed.

“I think the atmosphere is going to be incredible,” he said, “Playing in the night session before Roger and Rafa is going to be really special.”

Can Team World break through?

Team Europe, captained by Bjorn Borg, have won all five previous editions against Team World, captained by John McEnroe.

Though the 2019 match saw Team Europe win 13-11, Europe routed Team World 14-1 last year and go into the match as big favorites again.

McEnroe knows he’s under pressure to perform but says there may be a window of opportunity, with the likes of Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime in his line-up.

“Bjorn’s got a dream team, but you’ve got Roger announcing his retirement, Andy struggling to get back to as healthy as before and Rafa’s wife back at home expecting a baby, so that gives us some hope,” McEnroe told the London Evening Standard newspaper.

Laver Cup 101

Each day consists of four matches — three singles and one doubles — and each win earns one point on Friday, two points on Saturday and three points on Sunday. The first team to 13 points wins the competition and if it’s tied at 12-12, a deciding fifth match will be played.

Each match is the best of three sets, though the third set is a 10-point tiebreak.

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