Laver Cup: Roger Federer retires from tennis after playing the final match of his career

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

While he and Nadal ultimately lost the match to Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe, it was as entertaining as expected. Here’s what happened:

Couldn’t quite close the deal

It’s over — and this wasn’t in the script. Federer and Nadal had a match point at 9-8 in the deciding tiebreak but couldn’t take it. Sock and Tiafoe went on to win the tiebreak 11-9.

“It’s been a wonderful day,” Federer said on the court after the match. “I said to the guys I’m not sad, I’m happy. It feels like a celebration to me. It’s exactly what I had hoped for.”

It’s not the fairytale ending, but it doesn’t matter. What a great match — and what a career for Federer. — Simon Cambers

On to the tiebreak

You have to give it to the Americans — they play a superb tiebreak to take the second set. Federer’s final match will be decided in a 10-point tiebreaker. — Cambers

First set to Federer and Nadal

Most of the excitement has come at the changeovers — especially when one man removed about 10 shirts to the sound of Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony.”

The first break point of the match goes to Team World on the Nadal serve, but Federer puts away an easy smash, and then two points later, he nails a volley to stay in front at 5-4. Then Federer nails two groundstrokes to break and take the first set 6-4. — Cambers

The wildest point yet

I bet even Federer has not done this before: At 1-1, 40-15 on his serve, he somehow hits the ball through a tiny hole in the net on a passing shot. He loses the point but duly holds serve anyway. Does he really have to retire?

“My eye is still good. I saw it went through,” he said after.

At the changeover, the big video screen is showing tributes from his rivals and family. It will be truly difficult for Federer to get through this without totally breaking down in tears.

It’s not a carnival atmosphere — when Team World wins points there is a ripple of applause — but the crowd comes alive every time Federer and Nadal do anything. Let’s not forget they have each won Olympic gold medals in doubles: Federer with Stan Wawrinka in 2008 and Nadal with Marc Lopez in 2016. This won’t be easy for Sock and Tiafoe. — Cambers

Finally, it begins

The first night match lasted a bit longer than expected, as Alex de Minaur finally bested Murray after almost 2½ hours, but we are now ready for Federer’s last match. Celebrities are in the house: Rod Laver, of course, plus Anna Wintour, Bear Grylls, Stan Smith and Hugh Grant, among others we’re sure. Stefan Edberg does the coin toss — he coached Federer for two years.

Every shot that Federer hits, let alone when it’s a winner, is being met with deafening roars. He said he wanted it to be a celebration — and it is. — Cambers

Waiting to start

Due to the lengthy battle between Murray and de Minaur in the first match of the night — the first set alone lasted 81 minutes — Federer and Nadal had to wait longer than expected to take the court. While that delay likely took an emotional toll on Federer, it did provide an opportunity for some truly epic moments between the two legends as they watched together from backstage and reacted accordingly. — D’Arcy Maine

Prepping for the last time

The history of #TeamFedal

While Federer and Nadal have shared the court many times over the years, this is just their second time playing doubles together. They first paired up at the inaugural Laver Cup in 2017, facing Sock, as they will on Friday, and Sam Querrey.

At the time, Federer and Nadal had practiced together during their careers just once — something Federer revealed during the event. Each had also played (and won) their singles matches earlier in the day, but the duo unsurprisingly still won the match, 6-4, 1-6, 10-5. There were of course many highlight-worthy points, and even more laughs, high-fives and gif-worthy celebrations.

After the match, Nadal said the partnership was something he had wanted for a long time.

“To have the possibility to have Roger next to me is a huge privilege, and something I wanted to make happen at some point,” Nadal said. “Today was the ideal day to make that happen, no?” — Maine

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 faced 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. — Cambers

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.” — Cambers

Can Team World break through?

Team Europe, captained by Bjorn Borg, have won all four 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 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. — Cambers

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. — Cambers

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