Roger Federer’s decision to retire may not have come as a surprise to the tennis world, but Thursday’s announcement was still met with an outpouring of grief as current and former players paid tribute to one of the sport’s greatest athletes.
Heartbroken and goat emojis (The Greatest of All Time) flooded social media after the 41-year-old Swiss posted a lengthy letter announcing he would finally hang up his racket after 24 years on the Tour and next week in London the Laver Cup will be his swan song.
“Roger Federer is the champion of champions,” said 12-time major winner Billie Jean King.
“Having the most complete game of his generation, he won the hearts of sports fans around the world with his amazing speed on the court and a powerful tennis mind.”
Federer was the first player to win 20 Grand Slam titles, but his record has since been broken by Rafa Nadal (22) and Novak Djokovic (21) as the ‘Big Three’ waged epic battles on court that have become the premier sport of the 21st century .
Nadal himself has played against Federer 40 times, holding a 24-16 record over his great friend and rival, with whom he has met 24 times in various tournament finals.
“I wish this day would never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for the sport around the world,” Nadal said.
“It has been a pleasure, but also an honor and a privilege, to share with you all these years, experiencing so many amazing moments on and off the court.”
Having played more than 1,500 matches, Federer still holds many other records and is considered the greatest grass court player of all time, having won Wimbledon eight times, a male record.
“It has been a privilege to witness your journey and see you become a champion in every sense of the word,” Wimbledon wrote on Twitter.
“We will so miss the way you grace our courts, but all we can say for now is thank you for the memories and joy you have given to so many.”
But more than his prowess on the court, it was Federer’s charisma and affable personality that made him a role model for fans across generations.
“He redefined greatness on the court, while his champion spirit, sportsmanship and the way he played the game captivated audiences around the world for decades, inspiring many to pick up a racket,” said ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi .
“He ushered in an incredible new era of growth and increased the popularity of our sport. Few athletes have transcended their field in this way.
“Roger made us all feel honored and blessed to be a part of the same sport.”
US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz, the last member of the Grand Slam winners’ club, was not ready to say goodbye, however.
“Roger was one of my idols and a source of inspiration,” said the new world number one.
“Thank you for everything you have done for our sport! I still want to play with you.’