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    Are We Missing Out When Athletes Retire on Top?

    To witness the humbling of champions — and to see them endure it with dignity and grit — might be one of the great things sports has to teach us.A hero’s journey, ending in a wrenching farewell — sports historians will debate whether Roger Federer was the greatest men’s tennis player of all time, but few will deny that he was among its most dignified. Last month, the 41-year-old, 20-time major champion made official what had felt inevitable for some time: The ravages of age, culminating with a recent knee surgery, finally persuaded him to retire. A hastily arranged final appearance at the Laver Cup in London quickly morphed into a send-off for the Swiss superstar, a Festival of Fed. He teamed up with his friendly rival Rafael Nadal for a doubles match, a contest that felt mostly like an excuse to watch a legend take the court one last time. The raucous aftermath included an emotional on-court interview with a fellow great, Jim Courier. Federer’s current peers were there, all reverential, as was a teeming audience, eager to see him off. Was this the end, or merely the end of the beginning? Sportswriters are required to use phrases like “ravages of age” when discussing an athlete in decline, but truth be told, it’s a bit of a reach when describing Federer’s goodbye. Trim and suave in a royal blue zip-up and a signature Rolex (one of his longtime sponsors), he scarcely gave the appearance of a man facing down senescence — just a man acknowledging the fact he can’t go five sets deep with Novak Djokovic the way he used to. And while much of the celebration felt delightfully genuine and spontaneous, that’s not the same as saying it wasn’t calculated. To be an icon in the modern sports firmament is to give as much consideration to narrative as your average Shakespeare scholar, and scripting your career to a happy ending serves many purposes.A similar curtain call occurred a few weeks earlier, when the 23-time major champion Serena Williams finished her storied career with a spirited run into the third round of the U.S. Open, a tournament she first won in 1999. Williams and her older sister Venus have been fixtures of the American sports landscape for so long that it is at once impossible to imagine it without them and head-spinning to contemplate the length of their dominance. When Williams addressed the stadium after her last appearance, the assembled crowd responded with an operatic outpouring that exceeded even Federer’s rapturous farewell. (If your heart did not proceed directly to your throat when Serena wept and said she would be no one without her older sister, you either don’t love tennis or need to see a doctor.)For the aging athlete to continue grinding away is in some ways a noble act.Serena, like Federer, is 41 and considered by many to be the sport’s greatest of all time. Their playing days might be behind them, but each remains a global icon, and status as a global icon is a bit like a Supreme Court appointment: Once you have it, it’s your job for life. It’s also a lucrative one. The idea that a star athlete might be worth more money retired than active isn’t exactly new — Arnold Palmer’s career golf earnings were $2 million, while the bulk of his estimated $700 million estate was earned through endorsements long after his competitive days were over — but in a world crazed for both content and heroes, the stakes of making a narratively canny exit feel higher than ever. Legacy-building cannot be left to chance. Federer has already been the focus of multiple documentaries; Williams has been chronicled in a five-part HBO series and had her youth depicted, alongside her sister’s, in last year’s Oscar-winning dramatization “King Richard.” The incentive to make the leap from player to personality while still adjacent to the winner’s circle is immense.Roger Federer’s Farewell to Professional TennisThe Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the greatest competitive records in history.An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the game’s future is unpredictable,” the author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon may have been more fitting. But the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, offered a sensible final act for one of the greatest players of this era.Two Great Rivals: When players retire from individual sports like tennis, their rivalries go with them. Here is a look at some of the best matches that pitted Federer against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, along with Nadal and Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a new generation of hungry players, ready to muscle their way into the breach.This was not always the case — far from it. The edges of sports history are littered with specters like the aging Johnny Unitas, fecklessly playing out the string as a San Diego Charger, and Willie Mays, slumming as a past-his-prime New York Met. No complete biography of either man will ever be written without some significant reference to those sad and flailing years, in which they burned off parts of their legacy for a few final paychecks and a chance at adulation — the part where the great man, taking the field, commands his body to perform the old heroic acts and is betrayed, again and again, by those “ravages of age.” Personally, I am ambivalent about the much tidier exits of today’s greats. I sort of miss the tragic model. For the aging athlete to continue grinding away, even as their physical prowess begins to fail them, is in some ways a noble act of self-effacement, an abandonment of personal vanity, a repayment of the karmic debt of their natural abilities. We as a society currently stand at the intersection of modern medicine, baby-boomer vivacity and magical thinking, indulging in adult-adolescent fantasies of eternal youth, waving away the menacing creep of time. If sports is a metaphor for life — and it better be, for all the time it takes — I wonder if on some level we don’t do ourselves a disservice by watching our heroes bow out on a grace note. Parts of life’s ride are going to get ugly; injury, loss and defeat are coming for us all. To witness, in real time, the humbling of great athletes — and to see them endure it with dignity and grit, even as the outcomes carry them further and further from former glory — might be one of the great things sports has to teach us. Over these last few months, a miracle occurred that split the difference. Albert Pujols is 42 and in his 22nd season playing major-league baseball. For the first 10 years of that career, he was basically Babe Ruth — a hitter of such generational talent that it strained credulity. Over the second 10 years, he went from pretty good to mediocre to downright bad, and many a commentator remarked on how sad it was to see a once-perfect hitter break down. And yet Pujols persisted, catching on as a bench player with the Los Angeles Dodgers after being released by another team, and finally rejoining his original team, the St. Louis Cardinals, for one more year. It was, essentially, a sentimental gesture.But then something weird happened: He got really, really good again. His swing locked in. He started hitting home runs at his early career rate, passing 700 for his career, a huge benchmark in baseball. He led his team to a division title. It all came out of nowhere, the most romantic possible outcome for a player who had — in many people’s eyes — come to serve as a cautionary tale, an argument for getting out while the getting’s good.That’s one last thing about sports, and life: The difference between demonstrating resilience and toiling in self-delusion is not so easy to parse. Pujols recently revealed that as late as this June, he had become so dejected about his play that he nearly quit. It turned out, happily, that there was one last chapter to be written. It reminds me of a favorite lyric, from the band Drive-By Truckers: “There’s something to be said for hanging in there/Past the point of hanging around too long.”Source photographs: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images; Stacy Revere/Getty Images; Paul Crock/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images; Greg Wood/Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images; Getty Images. More

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    Federer on His Exit and Holding Nadal’s Hand: ‘It’s Maybe a Secret Thank You’

    In an interview, Roger Federer opens up about the emotions of his goodbye at the Laver Cup and about the future of men’s tennis. “Nobody needs to play like me, by the way,” he said.Roger Federer, newly retired, was back in Switzerland on Monday night after flying home from London, where he wrapped up a whirlwind farewell to his competitive career with one last match at the Laver Cup.He partnered with his friendly rival Rafael Nadal in doubles for Team Europe, losing a close match to Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World, which also went on to win the Laver Cup for the first time in five attempts.But the defeat was secondary to the occasion — an intense, emotional goodbye for Federer and those surrounding him, including his wife, Mirka, and their four children, plus his friendly rivals Nadal and Novak Djokovic.Federer, 41, established himself long ago as one of the greatest players in tennis history, but after breaking Pete Sampras’s men’s record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles in 2009, he chose to play on for 13 more years. He won five more majors and at age 36 became the oldest men’s No. 1 since the advent of the ATP rankings in 1973.His departure marks the beginning of the end of a golden age in the men’s game in which Nadal, Djokovic and Federer have developed rich and long-running rivalries, lifting each other and their sport. Federer, for all his longevity and tennis genius, now ranks third in the Grand Slam singles titles chase behind Nadal with 22 and Djokovic with 21. I first interviewed Federer in February 2001, in his home city of Basel, Switzerland, when he was still a teenager and had yet to win his first major. On Monday night, we spoke by telephone about the 21 years since and his goodbye to competition:This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.So, how do you feel now that it’s really over?I think I feel complete. I lost my last singles match. I lost my last doubles match. I lost my voice from screaming and supporting the team. I lost the last time as a team. I lost my job, but I’m very happy. I’m good. I’m really good. That’s the ironic part, is everybody thinks about happy fairy-tale endings, you know? And for me, actually it ended up being that but in a way that I never thought was going to happen.Federer partnered with his friendly rival Rafael Nadal in doubles for Team Europe at the Laver Cup.James Hill for The New York TimesRafa Nadal clearly made a big effort to be part of the event on Friday, given his wife’s pregnancy. What did it mean, knowing all that you knew, for him to be there for you for the doubles?I called him after the U.S. Open — I waited for him to finish that tournament — just to let him know about my retirement.Roger Federer’s Farewell to Professional TennisThe Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the greatest competitive records in history.An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the game’s future is unpredictable,” the author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon may have been more fitting. But the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, offered a sensible final act for one of the greatest players of this era.Two Great Rivals: When players retire from individual sports like tennis, their rivalries go with them. Here is a look at some of the best matches that pitted Federer against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, along with Nadal and Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a new generation of hungry players, ready to muscle their way into the breach.And I just wanted to let him know before he started making some plans without the Laver Cup at all. I told him on the phone that I was probably 50-50 or 60-40 on making the doubles. I told him, “Look, I’ll keep you posted. You let me know how things are at home. And we’ll reconnect.”But it very quickly got clear on the phone, and Rafa told me, “I will try everything I possibly can to be there with you.” And that felt obviously incredible for me. And it showed again how much we mean to one another and how much respect we have. And I just thought it would be just a beautiful, amazing story for us, for sports, for tennis, and maybe beyond that as well, where we can coexist in a tough rivalry and come out on top and show that, hey, again it’s just tennis. Yes, it’s hard, and it’s brutal sometimes, but it’s always fair. And you can come out on the other side and still have this great, friendly rivalry. I just thought it ended up even better than I ever thought it would. So, an incredible effort by Rafa, and I’ll obviously never forget what he did for me in London.Those raw emotions after the match were powerful for a lot of people around the world, particularly the scenes with you and Rafa. Do you think you maybe changed the way people view male athletes?I think I have always had a hard time keeping my emotions in check, winning and losing. In the beginning, it was more about being angry and sad and crying. And then, I was happy-crying about my wins. I think on Friday, this was another animal, to be honest, because I think all of the guys — Andy [Murray], Novak and also Rafa — saw their careers flashing in front of their eyes, knowing that we all in a way have been on borrowed time for long enough already. As you get older, you get into your 30s, you start knowing what you really appreciate in life but also from the sport.Have you seen the photo of you and Rafa sitting on the bench crying and holding hands?I have seen it.“I was sobbing so hard, and, I don’t know, everything was going through my mind about how happy I am to actually experience this moment right there with everybody,” Federer said.Ella Ling/Shutterstock What’s it like to look at that image?Well, I mean, it was a short moment. I think at one point, I was sobbing so hard, and I don’t know, everything was going through my mind about how happy I am to actually experience this moment right there with everybody. And I think that’s what was so beautiful about just sitting there, taking it all in while the music was playing, and the focus was maybe more on her [the singer Ellie Goulding]. So, you almost forgot that you’re still being taken pictures of. I guess at one point, just because obviously I couldn’t speak and the music was there, I guess I just touched him, and I guess it’s maybe a secret thank you. I don’t know what it was, but for me, that’s maybe what it was and how it felt and some pictures came out of it. Different ones. Not just that one but other ones, too, that were just completely crazy, you know, so with different angles, and I hope to get those because they mean a lot to me.That moment when you’re talking to your kids and telling them, I’m not crying because I’m sad. I’m crying because I’m happy. I think any parent could relate to that.I didn’t know that people could hear that. They looked so sad to me, and when I told them I was retiring, also three of them were crying, because they think that I’m sad about it, but I’m truly not. And, of course, a moment like this is so powerful in the arena. It was hard not to cry at some point, and not just hard for them.You dehydrated the world.We’ve got to recharge on those tears.“I ultimately said, look, it’s OK, I accept it. Because I left it all out there. Nothing more to prove,” Federer said.James Hill for The New York TimesYou’ve said, “It’s time to stop. I can feel it.” Is that mostly based on feeling you just can’t move the way you need to move on tour anymore to compete?That’s part of it. It’s also the age, let’s be honest. And going to the very end of it, I don’t see the point. I tried so long the last few years that it’s fine. You know, it’s all good. And you get to a point where, you know, when I did the surgery last year I knew it was going be a long road back. And it was going to take me probably a year.So, of course, in my dream, I saw myself playing again, but I was very realistic about the comeback. Number one, I did it for my personal life. I knew it was the right thing to do: Let’s get this leg fixed and all that. For that, I had to do a proper rehab. If I just retire, I know I will not do my rehab correctly. So, if I stay active and I’m still a professional tennis player, I know I will do it 100 percent right. And I keep the options open to hopefully maybe return to exhibition tennis at least, 250s hopefully, 500s and 1000s if things really go super well. And Grand Slams if, you know, magic happens.As time went by, I could feel less and less chance as the knee was creating problems for me as I was struggling to power through. And that’s when I ultimately said, look, it’s OK, I accept it. Because I left it all out there. Nothing more to prove.You rarely showed it, but what percentage of your matches did you play over the years in some kind of pain?I think we all play sick and hurt. I was always of the impression that I can play through some pain, a lot of pain, like we all have to. But I think I always felt my body very well. I knew when I could power through and when I had to be careful. And I was always of the opinion that I’d rather take the rest at some point: give myself the extra week, the extra day, the extra hour, the extra month, whatever it is, and take it easy, go back to training and then come back strong again. That’s why I tried to avoid any sorts of injections and operations for the longest time until I had to have surgery in 2016.Team World, in red, won the Laver Cup for the first time in five attempts.James Hill for The New York TimesI know you were joking with your teammates in London about your lack of mobility, but are you confident now after playing the doubles that your body will allow you to play exhibition tennis?I have to go back to the drawing board now and just see after this incredible weekend, what I should do next.I think it would be beautiful to somehow have a goodbye exhibition game, you know, and thank the fans, because obviously Laver Cup was already sold out before I knew about retirement. A lot of people would have loved to get more tickets and couldn’t, so I just feel maybe it would be nice to have one more or several goodbye exhibitions, but I’m not sure if I could or I should do that now. But obviously I would love to play exhibitions down the road, take tennis to new places or take it back to fun places where I had a blast.As you step away, do you see anybody out there who plays the game like you do?Not right now. Obviously, it would have to be a guy with a one-handed backhand. Nobody needs to play like me, by the way. People also thought I was going to play like Pete Sampras, and I didn’t. I think everybody needs to be their own version of themselves. And not a copycat, even though copying is the biggest sign of flattery. But I wish all of them to find their own selves, and tennis will be great. I’m sure I’ll always be the No. 1 fan of the game. And I’ll follow, sometimes in the stands, sometimes on TV, but of course, I hope for enough one-handers, enough attacking tennis, enough flair. But I’m going to sit back and relax and watch the game from a different angle.Meanwhile, your rivals play on. You said it was important to retire first as you are the oldest. Were you worried Rafa would beat you to it this spring when he was considering retirement because of his foot problems?I got a scare with Murray, too. I remember vividly when I saw him in the locker room in Australia in 2019 after his Bautista match [referring to Roberto Bautista Agut]. I remember he said, “I might be done.” We were asked to do farewell videos; I had a chance to go. I went up to him and asked him, “Are you like seriously done?” And I remember him telling me, “Well, with this hip, I can’t play anymore.” So, he knew he was at a huge crossroads in his life. But yeah, I’m happy I could go first, because I also am supposed to go first. So, that’s why it’s felt good. And I hope they can all play as long as possible and squeeze that lemon out. I really wish the best for them. More

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    Federer’s Goodbye a Reminder of the Events and Shots That Make His Legacy

    Federer kept alive a one-handed backhand, tried rushing the net on returns and helped popularize the between-the-legs shot. And with the Laver Cup, he showed that tournaments can be different, too.After more than 25 years on the professional court, Roger Federer announced his plans to retire. Federer is the first man to win 20 Grand Slam titles and is considered one of the greatest athletes ever.James Hill for The New York TimesAfter Roger Federer bid a teary and moving farewell to competitive tennis late Friday night in London, one of his legacies to the game is clear.It is the Laver Cup, the annual and itinerant team event that was his vehicle for saying goodbye.The tennis calendar is not quite as overstuffed as usual with no tournaments in China since 2019 and no tournaments in Russia for the foreseeable future. But the gaps will continue to be refilled, and Federer and his agent Tony Godsick have used plenty of their political capital to try to anchor the Laver Cup in the schedule since its creation in 2017.Their pressure led to it becoming an official part of the ATP Tour, even though it offers no ranking points and has a shortened format with match tiebreakers in lieu of full third sets.Its structure remains intriguing but challenging: matching up all-star teams from Europe and the rest of the world even though Europe remains the clear center of power in the men’s game and the “rest of the world” is not a natural sporting entity. The Cup also does not attract all the world’s top players as a matter of course. The new No. 1, Carlos Alcaraz, a 19-year-old Spaniard who just won the U.S. Open, chose to play a more traditional team event, the Davis Cup, last week.But Laver Cup, with its high-end production values (and ticket prices), is certainly a big cut above a regular tournament and has generated plenty of highlights and emotion in its five years of existence, with Federer setting the tone. Federer, a part owner of the event that is run by his management company, Team8, cares about its viability and credibility.For his last match, Roger Federer chose the Laver Cup, an event he was worked to expand and promote.James Hill for The New York TimesThough he has had his fill of internal tour politics, he intends to keep bringing his star power to the Laver Cup, even in retirement. Expect him to be captain of the European team at some stage. Why not with his friend and former rival Andy Roddick as a quotable captain of Team World?It is an unusual heritage. Federer’s superstar predecessors like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl created no enduring tour-level events, although Novak Djokovic is perhaps on his way with the ATP tournament in his home city of Belgrade, Serbia.But this is certainly a more lasting contribution to pro tennis than one-off lucrative exhibitions, which Federer will surely do more of as well if his fragile knee cooperates. How about one versus Rafael Nadal in Real Madrid’s revamped Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, when its renovations are finally completed?Laver Cup, as Federer intended, creates connections between tennis generations, and one of Federer’s much younger teammates, the Italian Matteo Berrettini, reminded Federer on Saturday that he chose tennis because he was a Federer fan who used to hunt for his autograph at the Italian Open in Rome.Roger Federer’s Farewell to Professional TennisThe Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the greatest competitive records in history.An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the game’s future is unpredictable,” the author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon may have been more fitting. But the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, will offer a sensible final act for one of the greatest players of this era.Two Great Rivals: When players retire from individual sports like tennis, their rivalries go with them. Here is a look at some of the best matches that pitted Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a new generation of hungry players, ready to muscle their way into the breach.But what of the way Federer played the game? The legacy there is more challenging to determine.He certainly has helped save or at least postpone the demise of the one-handed drive backhand, one of his most eye-catching strokes with its high, elastic finish.He adopted the shot because his boyhood coach, Peter Carter, used it and because Federer’s tennis role models — Becker, Stefan Edberg and Sampras — did so as well.Federer’s long-running success inspired the young stars Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov and Lorenzo Musetti to take up the stroke, and all are under age 25. But overall, the numbers have declined considerably since Federer’s early years on tour. Only seven men in this week’s top 100 use the one-hander, and the figures are even lower in the women’s game.Federer’s one-handed backhand was a signature shot, and inspired some imitators. But it has largely fallen out of the game.Karsten Moran for The New York Times“I am not sure Roger saved it for good,” said Ivan Ljubicic, one of Federer’s longtime coaches who rose to No. 3 in the world with a one-handed backhand. “I think there’s definitely a danger that it will disappear eventually.”“For me, I felt it was a weapon,” Ljubicic added. “But I did feel kind of a disadvantage on the return. I think that’s really where you feel the two-hander is a big advantage because you can hold the forehand grip with the right hand and the backhand grip with the left so it’s much easier to react and hit the ball.”Ljubicic said the two-handed backhand took over as the game became faster because it is easier to adjust grips using two hands. But there are advantages to the one-hander Federer used. “You can hit the ball harder, crazy as that might sound,” he said. “And you usually have better slices and volleys if you use the one-hander all the time.”Federer has helped popularize the tweener: the back-to-the-net, between-the-legs shot. He has done the same for the open-stance sliced “squash shot” on the forehand side. But he hardly invented those strokes, and his true innovation — the SABR (Sneak Attack By Roger) in which he dashed forward to half volley a service return and rush the net — has yet to go mainstream.Craig O’Shannessy, a leading tennis analytics expert, thinks Federer helped to keep “serve and volley on life support” although he used the tactic sparingly, even on grass, after his early years. Peter Smith, who coached Peter Carter in Carter’s youth, believes Federer’s deft use of the short slice to bring volley-challenged players forward was also a rare but influential tactic.Brad Gilbert, an ESPN analyst and former leading player and coach, thinks one of Federer’s legacies is cementing the so-called “plus-one forehand” as a core approach.“He’s the greatest I’ve ever seen at serving wide and then next ball into the open court, you were toast,” Gilbert said. “He did that so often with those one-two punches that I think he opened a lot of guys’ and girls’ eyes to wow, that’s really important to have.”Federer’s style on the court is so demanding that few players are capable of emulating it.Hilary Swift for The New York TimesNadal certainly did that as well, and both Federer and Nadal have loved to run around their backhands and hit an inside-out forehand to take control of a rally.Federer has long mentored or practiced with talented Swiss prospects and intends to keep at it in retirement, but for now no next-wave Swiss men’s star has emerged in the wide wake of Federer and his compatriot Stan Wawrinka, who won three major singles titles and helped Federer win the Davis Cup for Switzerland in 2014.Part of the challenge in mimicking Federer is that his style of play is so demanding.“He does things other guys just aren’t comfortable trying to do. He literally is playing six inches behind the baseline against these guys who are absolutely crushing balls with these rackets and strings and he’s picking up balls on the rise, virtually half-volleying them off the baseline, and is still able to control and dictate play. Most guys look at that and say, ‘I could never play like that,’” Brad Stine, who coaches Tommy Paul, said in a recent interview. “I’ve described Roger sometimes as being the most stubborn player in tennis, because he just won’t give ground. It’s really high-risk tennis but his feet are so good and his eyes are so good that he just won’t give in.”Grigor Dimitrov was long one of the few who tried to model their game on Federer’s. But Dimitrov, 31, has not managed to make the leap to major champion. Alcaraz, the Spanish prodigy, just did it at age 19 by winning the U.S. Open and rising to No. 1. Federer was his biggest role model, and Alcaraz’s all-court improvisational ability, next-gear power, fabulous movement, yen to attack the net and ability to hit winners from just about anywhere certainly do feel familiar, even without a one-handed backhand and with a better drop shot.“You have to be extremely explosive and have to move extremely well to be able to play Roger’s kind of tennis,” Ljubicic said. “And Carlos is the first player that is able to even try to play that way, and I’m happy to see he’s doing it, because it is spectacular, literally one highlight after the other. I hope he can keep it up, even if he can’t go as long as Roger did, because I see a lot of people and kids getting excited.”Federer’s biggest tennis legacy will likely not be tactical or technical. Having played until 41 and having returned to No. 1 at age 36, he has extended the timeline in men’s tennis, managing his schedule and fitness training with great forethought. He has set an example with his interpersonal skills, as well, which have helped him attract (and keep) sponsors as well as fans worldwide.Federer’s dedication to Team Europe at the Laver Cup will likely see him come back in future years as a captain.James Hill for The New York Times“I think people will use not only Roger, but Rafa, as a way to go about things,” Roddick said. “A way to treat people, especially on the heels of other all-time greats of tennis who were edgy or prickly or reclusive or you didn’t feel like you got a whole view of them. But Roger and Rafa, you feel you got that whole view, so it’s probably easier to point to them after the fact as the way it should be. But it also creates kind of an insane expectation.”After a very emotional Friday night, only Nadal is active of that duo, though like Federer he will not play in the rest of this Laver Cup. Nadal, whose wife is expecting their first child, announced he was withdrawing for personal reasons on Saturday.And while Federer watches the competition from the sideline this weekend, Team Europe will try to maintain their unbeaten streak in the event Federer helped create. The one that will be known from now on as the event he used to say farewell. More

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    Federer, Even in Defeat, Gets Fitting End to Storied Career

    The last match of Roger Federer’s 24-year professional career was about to begin, and Andy Murray, one of his rivals turned teammates at this Laver Cup in London, kept his advice short and sweet.“Enjoy it,” Murray said.Federer, 41, took that to heart on Friday night: acknowledging the roars and support of the sellout crowd in the O2 Arena; smiling often and cracking jokes with his doubles partner Rafael Nadal as they lost to Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock, 4-6, 7-6 (2), (11-9). The decider after the teams split sets was a 10-point tiebreaker rather than a third set.His Final Bow! 😭 @rogerfederer plays the final match of his career with Nadal and fought hard, but ultimately Team World wins, 4-6, 7-6, 11-9.#LaverCup pic.twitter.com/CQrAVfr7cu— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) September 23, 2022
    The tone, as so often with Federer, seemed just right, and there were of course tears when it was over from a champion who has so often given free rein to his emotions — in victory or defeat — after keeping them tightly under wraps with the ball in play. What underscored the special circumstances on Friday were the emotions that others were feeling: the thousands in the arena, including Federer’s family and friends, and perhaps most poignantly, Nadal, a much less lachrymose champion who appeared every bit as inconsolable as his friend and doubles partner as the tears streamed down his face.“A lot of years, sharing a lot of things together,” Nadal said. “When Roger leaves the tour, an important part of my life is leaving, too.”But Federer made it clear that he had received what he had hoped for on Friday, even in defeat.“It’s been a wonderful day,” Federer said. “I told the guys I’m happy, I’m not sad. I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time. Everything was the last time.”With a suspect right knee, he could have ended his great career in many a manner and many a venue, but he chose to emphasize the collective: forgoing an individual tour event like Wimbledon or his home city stop in Basel, Switzerland, and opting instead for this team event partly of his own creation.“I didn’t want it to feel lonely out there,” Federer said. “I always felt I was a team player at heart.”James Hill for The New York TimesJames Hill for The New York TimesHe could have tried one more singles match. Instead, he chose to play doubles with Nadal, settling on the opening night of this three-day event to avoid stealing too much thunder from the Laver Cup’s homestretch.“It does feel like a celebration. It’s exactly what I wanted at the end, exactly what I hoped for,” he said, wiping tears away in his post-match interview with the crowd applauding him supportively to help him through it.The gallery in London included his wife, Mirka, and four children and his parents, Robert and Lynette, as well as members past and present of his support team: from former No. 1 Stefan Edberg to his current coaches Severin Lüthi and Ivan Ljubicic.Roger Federer’s Farewell to Professional TennisThe Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the greatest competitive records in history.An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the game’s future is unpredictable,” the author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon may have been more fitting. But the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, will offer a sensible final act for one of the greatest players of this era.Two Great Rivals: When players retire from individual sports like tennis, their rivalries go with them. Here is a look at some of the best matches that pitted Roger Federer against Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a new generation of hungry players, ready to muscle their way into the breach.“She could have stopped me a long time ago, but she didn’t,” Federer said of Mirka, a former tour player whom he has long called “my rock.”Mirka Federer, like Federer’s fitness trainer Pierre Paganini, has been instrumental in Federer pushing the boundaries of enduring tennis excellence and playing, like Serena Williams, another departing megastar, across four decades.But the strong emotions on Friday were not restricted to the grand setting and the fanfare, to the series of standing ovations and Federer banners that read, “Forever our No. 1,” to the extended, tender embrace between Federer and Lüthi shortly before Federer took the court.The tennis turned out to be diverting, too, which was no guarantee considering that Federer had not played a public match of any kind in the nearly 15 months since he slumped out of Wimbledon in 2021 with a straight-set defeat in the quarterfinals to Hubert Hurkacz, which included a 6-0 final set.Unable to fully recover from his latest knee surgery, he said he was uncertain even a few weeks ago that he would be able to play at all. A ceremonial adieu on Friday night against the Team World doubles team of Sock and Tiafoe would have been understandable, but Federer managed rather more than that. The first ball he struck in the match was a winner: a reflex forehand volley. And though he mistimed a groundstroke or two and looked uncharacteristically slow off the mark when it came time to sprint for a short ball, he certainly gave the public quite a bit of what they paid from far and wide for.James Hill for The New York TimesKin Cheung/Associated Press“Playing doubles is more difficult than singles, because you don’t always get into a rhythm, but he’s done very well,” said Martina Navratilova, the tennis great who retired at 49 as a doubles specialist and was calling the farewell match for Tennis Channel. “It’s easier to come back when you have such good technique, and there’s not really anything to go wrong.”There has been a grace and purity to Federer’s game since he joined the tour in the late 1990s and was still losing his temper and serve on a regular basis.But he soon solved his anger management issues and kicked into a new gear: one that no rival could match consistently until Nadal emerged as an unstoppable force on clay and a major threat on every other surface, as well. Djokovic joined the lead pack in earnest in the 2010s and was unquestionably the player of that decade, turning men’s tennis into a Big Three with a strong supporting cast that included Murray and Stan Wawrinka, who each won three major singles titles.Federer finished with 20, third best in this golden age behind Nadal’s 22 and Djokovic’s 21.It was affirming to see them all sharing slaps on the back and tactical tips on Friday night as part of Team Europe.The Big Three have shared many a locker room and board room through the decades, but this was the first time they had all been teammates. The edge was off for a night, which turned into a late night with the match finishing at 12:26 a.m., even if the comparing and contrasting will continue for many years.Nadal has the Grand Slam title lead for now, and Djokovic looks like he has total weeks at No. 1 wrapped up for good with 373, well ahead of Federer’s 310. But Federer still has his strongholds. He finished with 103 tour singles titles, second only to Jimmy Connors’s 109 in the Open era for men. Federer also finished with eight Wimbledon singles titles, the all-time men’s record. His total of six year-end championships is another record, and two of those ATP Finals, fittingly, were won in the O2 Arena.James Hill for The New York TimesLewis Storey/Getty Images For Laver CupFederer grew up in Basel playing frequently indoors, often on red clay under temporary inflated bubbles in the wintertime. He is an attacking player at heart, most at home tight to the baseline and striking the ball remarkably early off the bounce. Andre Agassi once summed up the experience of facing Federer by explaining that there was no “safe haven”: no place to place a shot where danger did not lurk.That concept still made sense on Friday night, even after Federer had been out of action for more than a year and even if his 41 years and aching knees clearly limit his movement. He amiably mocked his new slowness afoot on the final changeover as he spoke with his teammates between sips of water after he had failed to track down a forehand to convert his and Nadal’s first and only match point during the closing tiebreaker.But the shotmaking was still there, even if the feathery footwork was not. Down the stretch, he hit big forehand returns, touch volleys and even a trademark loose-armed ace up the T. He also spun his racket before returning, blew on the fingers of his right hand and hopped after winners with delight and closure, albeit not quite as high as in his heyday.All that was missing was a victory, but then there have been so many of those through the years. And if you choose to search for symbolism, it was not entirely off key for Federer to go out in defeat.He has been a big winner, no doubt, capable of dominating the game from 2004 to 2007 and roaring back for a renaissance in 2017 and 2018. But he has also had to absorb some crushing defeats on the game’s grandest stages, which has certainly contributed to making him a more relatable champion.James Hill for The New York TimesAnd yet Friday was not a night for the score line, but for the bottom line, and Sock did as good a job as anyone at articulating it as he embraced Federer at the net.“Appreciate you,” Sock said, just before they parted ways and Federer turned left and headed toward the rest of his life.The words were not what spoke most eloquently, however. The real power was in the expressions: above all in the eyes of Nadal. If a man’s archrival will miss him that much, how should the rest of us feel?Andrew Das More

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    Climate Activist Sets Himself on Fire at the Laver Cup

    LONDON — A protester set fire to his arm after running onto the court during a match on Friday at the Laver Cup tennis competition, stunning the capacity crowd at London’s O2 Arena and briefly setting fire to the playing surface.Wearing a white T-shirt reading “End UK Private Jets,” the protester, a young man, appeared on the court during the afternoon singles match between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman. Sitting down near the net on Schwartzman’s side of the court, the man briefly set fire to his right arm, and to the court, as security officials ran toward him.A man has set his arm on fire after invading the court at the Laver Cup on Roger Federer’s last day as a professional tennis player. pic.twitter.com/g0LcBU8PeJ— Sam Street (@samstreetwrites) September 23, 2022
    The protester appeared to immediately regret the decision to set fire to himself, and quickly put out the flames with his left hand while a small fire burned on the court next to him. A staff member smothered the on-court fire with a suit jacket while the protester calmly waited to be removed.Once the fire was out, and with Schwartzman keeping a safe distance, three security guards carried the man off the court to a chorus of boos from the crowd.“He came out of nowhere,” Tsitsipas said. “I have no idea what this was about. I’ve never had this happen in a match before. I hope he’s all right.”The man did not seem to be seriously injured.Disrupting high-profile sporting events has become an increasingly common tactic by environmental activists in Europe over the past year, and some have succeeded in drawing attention to their causes in a variety of ways, including attaching themselves to goal posts at Premier League soccer matches; breaching the court at the French Open tennis championships; and blocking the path of cycling’s Tour de France.The incident at the Laver Cup appeared to leave the court undamaged, and play resumed after a brief delay. Tsitsipas went on to defeat Schwartzman in straight sets. More

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    Federer-Nadal Rivalry Ends in a Doubles Match Partnership

    One of the greatest rivalries in tennis history will end in harmony on Friday when Roger Federer plays his final competitive match with Rafael Nadal as his doubles partner.The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal has been a 21st-century staple.Righty versus lefty. Panache versus perspiration. Zen vs. Vamos.Back in the day, it was the establishment versus the avant-garde, as well, but that distinction has blurred through the decades, just as the edge has softened. Many of the new-age fans whom Federer and Nadal attracted to the game might need reminding that Federer is nearly five years older than his defining rival from Majorca.That significant age gap helps explain why Federer will be the first of the golden-era gang to retire from professional tennis (even if Andy Murray came tearily close a few years back before soldiering on with an artificial hip joint). Federer turned 41 last month and will play what he insists is his final competitive match on Friday night in the Laver Cup team event in London.“Sitting here, it feels good that I go first from the guys; it just feels right,” Federer said at a news conference on Thursday, flanked by Murray, Nadal and Novak Djokovic, all his teammates for this special farewell weekend at the O2 Arena.Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Federer and Nadal once made up the Big Four of tennis, until Murray faded and the rest became the Big Three.Glyn Kirk/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesThey were once the Big Four, with Murray serving as Ringo Starr, but they have long since become the Big Three. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have racked up 20 or more Grand Slam singles titles and won multiple majors in their 30s, often at one another’s expense.Their careers are all deeply, inextricably intertwined, and Nadal and Djokovic have actually played each other significantly more on tour than Nadal and Federer.But Fedal was the original golden-age rivalry, and if “Fedal” still sounds a bit clunky, best to consider the alternatives. “Naderer”? No gracias.Federer and Nadal first played singles in March 2004 in a night match in the third round of the Miami Open, with the 17-year-old Nadal ambushing the top-ranked Federer in little more than an hour. The final score was 6-3, 6-3.But their first match was actually the week before, when Nadal and his Spanish compatriot Tommy Robredo defeated Federer and his Swiss compatriot Yves Allegro 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the round of 16 in Indian Wells, Calif.Roger Federer’s Farewell to Professional TennisThe Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the greatest competitive records in history.An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the game’s future is unpredictable,” the author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon may have been more fitting. But the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, will offer a sensible final act for one of the greatest players of this era.A Billion-Dollar Brand: Some tennis superstars have built sponsorship empires. But none ever wooed the corporate class as brilliantly as Federer did.Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a new generation of hungry players, ready to muscle their way into the breach.For those like me who like their symmetry, it feels rather neat and tidy that Fedal will end back on the doubles court, as they partner each other, creaky knees willing, on Friday night for Team Europe against Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock of Team World.“Different kind of pressure,” Nadal said of the occasion. “After all the amazing things that we shared together on and off the court, to be part of this historic moment is going to be something amazing, unforgettable for me. Super excited. I hope I can have a good chance to play at a decent level, and hopefully together we can create a good moment and maybe win a match. So, let’s see.”Victory is hardly guaranteed. Sock, whose whipping forehand has even more topspin than Nadal’s or Federer’s, is one of the world’s best doubles players, and Tiafoe, his fellow American, is still on a high after making a breakthrough run to the semifinals of this month’s U.S. Open in singles.“Obviously tomorrow night is going to be a beyond-iconic evening,” Sock said on Thursday. “I’m just stoked to be a part of it with my guy Foe next to me. We will go out and enjoy the moment, but not going to hold anything back. Sorry, Roger. Don’t want to spoil the night.”Perhaps Sock needs to be reminded that Federer is a co-owner of this event, launched in 2017 to create a tennis version of golf’s Ryder Cup and establish a more solid bridge between the generations, with captains John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg on opposite benches and Rod Laver as the namesake.But Federer, who wants the Laver Cup to be taken seriously even though it awards no ranking points, would surely have no quarrel with Sock and Tiafoe going full throttle. And it is honestly hard to imagine anything spoiling the night other than Federer limping around the O2, unable to cover his half of the court.Nobody is up for that, even if Federer is smartly trying to manage expectations.Bjorn Borg, Europe’s Laver Cup captain, with Federer on Thursday.Andrew Boyers/Action Images Via ReutersWhen Borg, Team Europe’s silver-maned captain, was asked about his squad on Thursday, his answer was: “Everybody is healthy. They are ready to play.”Federer quickly interjected: “Medium healthy.”Not prepared to play one more singles match because of his postoperative knees, Federer chose doubles as the safer option, but this will still be his first competitive match in more than 14 months.There will be rust, and then there will be the emotions, his and his public’s, and as the thousands of fans present for Thursday’s open practice session made clear, there will be noise.Ivan Ljubicic, one of Federer’s longtime coaches, took it all in courtside and started to tear up, and he is not even playing.“I’m not sure if I can handle it all; I’ll try,” Federer said. “I have had some tougher moments as well in the past, you know, being horribly nervous all these years sometimes before matches. This one definitely feels a whole lot different.”It’s different in part because his co-tormenters-in-chief, Nadal and Djokovic, are teammates this time.“I am super excited to have them on our team and my team and not having to play against them on my last match,” Federer said.It certainly has lightened the mood in the prelude.On Thursday, Djokovic was asked which of his previous battles with Federer first came to mind.Djokovic gallantly began with the 2007 U.S. Open final against Federer.Djokovic: “I lost that match.”Federer: “He’s being nice now. Thank you, Novak.”Djokovic: “I haven’t finished.”There was laughter, and he soon got around to mentioning the 2019 Wimbledon final, in which Federer had two match points on his serve in the fifth set but was unable to close it out. (Djokovic gallantly did not go into these details either.)“What happened?” Federer asked. “I’ve blocked it out.”There was more laughter, which has certainly not been the rule among men’s tennis rivals over the past couple of decades. So many major titles have been at stake so often as they pushed each other on the match court and, in their quieter moments, on the practice court.They all became better because of that daily pressure, and Federer and Nadal concluded long ago that they had more reach as a pair than on their own.Fedal’s best singles matches have been some of the best content of the new century: the 2006 Italian Open final won by Nadal, the 2007 Wimbledon final won by Federer, the pièce de résistance 2008 Wimbledon final won in near darkness by Nadal, the 2017 Australian Open final won by Federer after both had come back from extended injury layoffs.The backlist is strong, too, even if they, frustratingly for us symmetrical sorts, never played at the U.S. Open. And though Nadal will forever lead the series 24-16, Federer can glide into the sunset (and toward their future exhibition matches) with his strong chin held high after winning six of their last seven encounters.“Through time, we’ve left behind a bit of that hard-core rivalry on court for a rivalry that we both value and understand has been part of something special within the world of sport,” Nadal once told me. “And I think we also understand that both of us have benefited from it, and we have to take care of it.”On Friday night, on the same side of the net at the end of an era, they can take care of each other. More

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    As Roger Federer Retires, Two Great Rivalries Come to an End

    A look at the great matches between Federer and Rafael Nadal as well as Federer and Novak Djokovic.Baseball has the Yankees and Red Sox. Soccer has F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid. College football has Michigan and Ohio State.Over the past two decades, men’s tennis has had Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and also Federer and Novak Djokovic. In team sports, rosters change year by year and the rivalries endure. But when players retire in individual sports like tennis, their rivalries go with them.Such is the case for Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam champion, and his rivalries with Nadal, the 22-time Grand Slam champion, and Djokovic, who has 21 Grand Slam titles.As the eldest of what has become known as the Big Three in men’s tennis, Federer, 41, made his debut on the pro tour earlier than Djokovic and Nadal. Federer turned pro in 1998 and won his first Grand Slam title in 2003 at Wimbledon. Nadal, 36, turned pro in 2001 and won his first Grand Slam title in 2005 at the French Open, and Djokovic, 35, turned pro in 2003 and won his first Grand Slam title in 2008 at the Australian Open.Jon Wertheim, a Tennis Channel commentator and sports journalist, said the younger Nadal and Djokovic had more time to prepare for how to beat Federer.“By virtue of being first, he could not tailor his game for how to beat them,” Wertheim said of Federer. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for raising the bar. He will finish third in majors won, but there’s a huge disadvantage that comes with being first.”In the end, Federer played Nadal 40 times from their first match against each other in the round of 32 at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Miami in 2004 (which Nadal won) to their most recent match, a Wimbledon semifinal in 2019 (which Federer won). Federer beat Nadal 16 times; Nadal won 24 times.Federer and Djokovic played in 50 matches against each other. Starting with their first match at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Monaco (which Federer won) to their most recent match, a semifinal at the Australian Open in 2020 (which Djokovic won), Djokovic came out slightly ahead, winning 27 matches to Federer’s 23.David Law, a commentator and co-host of “The Tennis Podcast,” said the rivalries made all three players better over time.“One would gain the upper hand, the other was forced to adapt,” Law said. “Federer doesn’t develop the smashed backhand drive down the line if Nadal doesn’t force him into taking it early to avoid the high backhand off the back foot. Djokovic doesn’t develop his serve with the help of Goran Ivanisevic if Federer isn’t all over him trying to half volley the return and charge in.”The rivalries made for some epic matches. Here is a look at some of the best between Federer and Nadal, and Federer and Djokovic:Nadal vs. Federer, 2008 Wimbledon finalFor many fans, the 2008 Wimbledon men’s final will go down as one of the best matches in the history of tennis. Going into the final that year, Federer had won five consecutive Wimbledon singles titles, including two against Nadal, in 2006 and 2007.Played on Centre Court, which did not yet have a roof, the match was delayed twice because of rain, pushing it closer and closer to darkness. The match went to tiebreakers in the third and fourth sets. In the fourth set, Federer saved two match points, and in the fifth set, he was two points away from winning his sixth consecutive Wimbledon final.Roger Federer’s Farewell to Professional TennisThe Swiss tennis player leaves the game with one of the greatest competitive records in history.An Appraisal: “He has, figuratively and literally, re-embodied men’s tennis, and for the first time in years, the game’s future is unpredictable,” the author David Foster Wallace wrote of Roger Federer in 2006.A Poignant Send-Off: Wimbledon may have been more fitting. But the Laver Cup, which Federer helped create, will offer a sensible final act for one of the greatest players of this era.A Billion-Dollar Brand: Some tennis superstars have built sponsorship empires. But none ever wooed the corporate class as brilliantly as Federer did.Tennis After Federer: The Swiss player, along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, helped define a remarkably durable period in men’s tennis history. Following behind is a new generation of hungry players, ready to muscle their way into the breach.Finally, at 9:16 p.m. local time, after 4 hours 48 minutes, Federer hit a forehand into the net. Nadal collapsed onto the grass with his first Wimbledon title, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7.Federer said after the match that it was “probably my hardest loss, by far; I mean it’s not much harder than this right now.”“He played a super match, and I’m sure it was a great match to watch and to play, but it’s all over now,” Federer said. “I need some time.”Nadal vs. Federer, 2009 Australian Open finalFederer and Nadal met again the next year at the Australian Open final in 2009. Again, the two played five sets in a match that lasted more than four hours. In the end, Nadal defeated Federer, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2, stopping Federer at least temporarily from matching Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles.The intense match is also remembered for its emotional ending. After the match, a devastated Federer struggled to speak during the trophy ceremony.“God, it’s killing me,” he said before breaking into tears.After lifting his trophy, Nadal walked back to Federer and put his arm around him and put his head to Federer’s, appearing to console him. Federer pulled himself together and walked back to the microphone.“I don’t want to have the last word; this guy deserves it,” Federer said. “So, Rafa, congratulations. You played incredible. You deserve it, man.”Djokovic vs. Federer, 2014 Wimbledon finalLaw said that while the 2008 Wimbledon final will be remembered as a standout match, “the best rivalry was the one between Federer and Djokovic.”They met in the Wimbledon final in 2014. By then, Federer had seven Wimbledon titles, and Djokovic had one. The final went to five sets, with tiebreakers in the first and third sets.At 4-5, Federer was serving with the game at 40-15 in Djokovic’s favor. Trying to return one of Djokovic’s forehand shots, Federer’s iconic one-handed backhand failed him, as he hit the ball into the net, losing the match, 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4.“Winning or losing, it’s always something special and something you’ll remember, even more so when the match was as dramatic as it was today,” Federer said after the match. “It’s even more memorable when I see my kids there with my wife and everything. That’s what touched me the most, to be quite honest. The disappointment of the match itself went pretty quickly.”Nadal vs. Federer, 2017 Australian Open finalFederer, then 35, entered the Australian Open in 2017 after some considerable time off in 2016 because of a knee injury. Federer reached the final and defeated Nadal, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. The win was Federer’s first major title since Wimbledon in 2012 and the first time he had beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam final since Wimbledon in 2007.Like in the 2008 Wimbledon final, when Nadal and Federer played, Law said that “neither could pick on a specific weakness.”“It became a sharpshooter’s matchup full of shotmaking, attack and counterattack,” Law said.Though it was a meaningful win for Federer, the match ended in a less than ideal manner. Serving while up, 5-3, in the final set, and after a small flurry of line challenges, Federer hit a forehand to Nadal’s right on a championship point. The ball was called in, but Nadal immediately raised a finger and challenged, arguing that the ball was out.The players anxiously waited for the official review of the shot, which confirmed that the ball was in and had hit the line. Federer immediately threw his arms into the air and leaped in celebration.“Of course, it’s slightly awkward to win this way,” Federer said after the match. “Nevertheless, emotions poured out of me. I was incredibly happy.”Djokovic vs. Federer, 2019 Wimbledon finalThe Wimbledon final in 2019 will go down as Federer’s last appearance in a Grand Slam final. To reach it, Federer beat Nadal in four sets in the semifinal. The final turned out to be another marathon, five sets in 4 hours 57 minutes. The final set lasted just over two hours by itself. In the end, Djokovic beat Federer, 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3).Djokovic saved two match points on Federer’s serve, then won in a final-set tiebreaker that was the first of its kind for a Wimbledon final.After the match, Djokovic said he thought Federer had commanded most of the match.“I was defending,” Djokovic said. “He was dictating the play. I just tried to fight and find a way when it mattered the most, which is what happened.”Federer said there were some similarities to the Wimbledon final in 2008 when he lost to Nadal.“I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed, I can’t believe it,” Federer said. More