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Roger Federer holds the winners’ trophy next to runner-up Rafael Nadal after the 2006 Wimbledon final. Photo: AP

Roger Federer retiring: Rafael Nadal leads tributes – ‘I wish this day would have never come’

  • Tennis world pays tribute to the legendary 20-times grand slam champion, who will hang up his racket after 24 years on Tour
  • Laver Cup in London set to be Federer’s swansong, with an outpouring of sadness as current and former players celebrate one of sport’s greats

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 sadness as current and former players celebrated one of sport’s greatest athletes.

Heartbreak and goat ( “Greatest Of All Time”) emojis filled social media after the 41-year-old Swiss posted a lengthy letter saying he was finally hanging up his racket after 24 years on the Tour, with next week’s Laver Cup in London set to be his swansong.

Federer was the first player to win 20 grand slam titles but has since seen his record broken by Rafa Nadal (22) and Novak Djokovic (21) as the “Big Three” fought epic encounters on court that headlined the sport in the 21st century.

“I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world,” Nadal said.

“It’s been a pleasure but also an honour and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.

“We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that. For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what’s ahead of you.”

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal take a selfie after playing mini tennis on the Cape Town Grand Parade in front of the City Hall and Table Mountain ahead of their exhibition match in South Africa in February 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE

Nadal has played Federer 40 times while Djokovic has faced him 50 times as the trio battled for supremacy, elevating the sport to stratospheric heights to spark the “GOAT” debate.

“Roger Federer is a champion’s champion,” said 12-times major winner Billie Jean King.

“He has the most complete game of his generation and captured the hearts of sports fans around the world with an amazing quickness on the court and a powerful tennis mind.”

Roger Federer poses with the championship trophy after defeating Lleyton Hewitt in the men’s singles final at the US Open in 2004. Photo: AP

Having played over 1,500 matches, Federer still holds plenty of other records and is widely regarded as the greatest grass court player of all time having won Wimbledon eight times – a men’s record.

“It’s been a privilege to witness your journey and see you become a champion in every sense of the word,” Wimbledon said on Twitter.

“We will so miss the sight of you gracing our courts, but all we can say for now is thank you, for the memories and joy you have given to so many.”

Roger Federer is applauded by ground staff as he holds the trophy after defeating Croatia’s Marin Cilic to win the men’s Singles final at Wimbledon in July 2017. Photo: AP

Federer never won an Olympic gold medal in the singles, but he did win one in the doubles and was Switzerland’s proud flag bearer at the 2004 and 2008 Games.

“What a career, what a champion. Thank you Roger Federer for all the matches, victories, defeats and emotions we were able to experience. The Swiss couldn’t be prouder,” Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said.

But more than his prowess on court, it was Federer’s charisma and genial 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 thrilled audiences around the world for decades, inspiring so many to pick up a racket,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.

“He spearheaded an incredible new era of growth and elevated the popularity of our sport. Few athletes have transcended their field in such a manner.

“Roger made us all feel proud and fortunate to be part of the same sport.”

Roger Federer kisses his trophy after defeating Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the 2009 French Open final. Photo: AP

Chris Evert, an 18-times major winner, said Federer was the “epitome of a champion.

“Class, grace, humility, beloved by everyone and he elegantly mastered the sport like no other,” she said.

US Open women’s champion Iga Swiatek said it had been a “privilege” to witness Federer’s career while Carlos Alcaraz, the latest entrant in the grand slam winners’ club after his triumph in New York, was not ready to say goodbye.

Roger Federer holds his trophy aloft after winning the men’s singles final against Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez at the 2007 Australian Open. Photo: AP

“Roger has been one of my idols and a source of inspiration,” the new world number one said.

“Thank you for everything you have done for our sport! I still want to play with you.”

Here is a round-up of the rest of the reaction from famous sporting figures to Federer’s retirement:

Roger Federer holds the trophy after defeating Australia’s Mark Philippoussis in the 2003 Wimbledon final – his first of 20 grand slams. Photo: AP

Hubert Hurkacz, last player to face and beat Federer

“It was an honour to experience your game for all these years and to share the court with you Roger Federer. You’ve been an inspiration to me and many, many others. Congratulations on a legendary career and good luck for the future.”

Thomas Bach, IOC president

“Roger Federer is a gentleman on and off the court – and a true Olympic champion. Congratulations Roger on your outstanding career, good luck for the future. Hope our paths will cross again.”

John Isner

“Some of Fed’s numbers are laughably impossible to top (23 straight slam semi-finals, for instance) but his impact on tennis far exceeds what he accomplished on court.

“Absolute living legend. Thanks for all the countless memories.”

Roger Federer shakes hands with Juan Martin del Potro after winning their semi-final at the 2017 Shanghai Masters. Photo: AP

Juan Martin del Potro, former US Open champion

“I LOVE YOU, Roger. Thank you for everything you’ve done in tennis and with myself. Tennis world will never be the same without you.

Andy Roddick, who lost 2009 Wimbledon final to Federer

“Cheers Roger. Thanks for the shared memories my friend. It was an honour to share time/experiences on the most hallowed grounds in our sport. Don’t be a stranger.

“Also, seems like a good time to start training for Wimby (Obviously kidding).”

Roger Federer poses with the trophy after defeating Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final. Photo: AP

Petra Kvitova, two-time Wimbledon champion

“Roger – you have always been such a huge inspiration to me. Your elegance, your grace, your beautiful game.

“I have always held you in the highest regard and want to congratulate you for an amazing career. Tennis won’t be the same without you! Thank you.”

Roland Garros

“An inspiration on and off the court. Thank you, Roger.”

Laver Cup

“Congratulations on a transcendent competitive career. Thank you for being a never-ending source of inspiration.”

Roger Federer waves as he holds up the 2013 ‘Fans’ Favourite’ trophy awarded to him at the ATP World Tour Finals. Photo: AP

Swiss Tennis

“Thank you Roger Federer for everything you have done for Swiss and international tennis, for all the countless emotions we were able to share with you, for every child you inspired to play tennis!”

Sachin Tendulkar, former cricketer

“What a career, Roger Federer. We fell in love with your brand of tennis. Slowly, your tennis became a habit. And habits never retire, they become a part of us. Thank you for all the wonderful memories.”

Milos Raonic

“Thank you for doing more for tennis than any single individual. Thanks to you competitors and fans across the world get to experience and enjoy it all over the world.

“Congratulations on your achievements and the people you continue to impact in and away from tennis.”

Roger Federer with the Swiss team after their 2014 Davis Cup final victory. Photo: AP

Denis Shapovalov

“A role model for me and so many others! Thanks for everything Roger. It’s been a privilege to share the court with you!!”

David Ferrer, former world No 3

“I have many memories of him. Seventeen – that’s the number of times I lost to him. I could never beat him. Towards the end of my career, when I saw that I was not at the same level, he gave me advice and I will remember him with great affection.”

Gary Lineker, former footballer and TV presenter

“It’s been one of the great pleasures in life to watch you play. You’ve brought so much joy to so many. Good luck with whatever comes next.”

Judy Murray, Andy Murray’s mother

“The end of a magnificent era.”