‘Happy and not sad’: An emotional farewell for Roger Federer after Grand Final loss

It was surely unthinkable for Roger Federer’s trophy-laden career to end in defeat, but that’s what happened when the 41-year-old Swiss maestro lost to Rafa Nadal on an emotional night in the Laver Cup on Friday.
In front of a sold-out crowd of 17,500 at London’s O2 Arena, 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer returned from more than a year for one last tandem dance with his arch-rival in a final captivating and memorable by the Thames.

With the clock already well past midnight, Federer had the chance to seal victory in the clash of doubles when he served to match point in a tense decisive tiebreaker, but it was not to be because the Americans Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe ruined the script.

Sock hit a forehand winner to seal a 4-6 7-6 11-9 victory for Team World. After a brief moment of near silence around the crowded arena, the crowd erupted in salute to an emotional Federer.
The London crowd had to wait for the arrival of Federer and Nadal as British favorites Andy Murray and Alex De Minaur engaged in a series of endless rallies in a crushing opener of the evening, ultimately won by De Minaur .
Murray’s two Wimbledon titles mean he’s a national sporting icon, but the night was all about Federer – a player who resides in the pantheon of sports greats alongside Pele, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali.
Even Federer’s training sessions at the O2 were standing room only and an electric atmosphere greeted him as he entered the cavernous arena alongside Nadal just after 10 p.m. local time for what would be his last dance.

“I’ve done this a thousand times, but this one is different. Thank you to everyone who comes tonight,” Federer said on Twitter earlier today.

team event

That was certainly the case, too, for everyone in a crowd that included Australian great Laver – the man who inspired Federer to create the new team event.
After the formalities of the draw, loud roars accompanied Federer and Nadal, otherwise known as ‘Fedal’, as they warmed up to the sound of The Clash’s London Calling booming around the room – Federer rising the arm in salute after its introduction.

Even greater joy grew when Federer volleyed in the opener – his first competitive shot since a demoralizing loss to Hubert Hurkacz in the 2021 Wimbledon quarter-final when he lost the final set 6-0 .

Team Europe's Roger Federer hugs his wife Mirka and their children after playing with Rafael Nadal in a Laver Cup doubles match against Team World's Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe.

Roger Federer had to fight back tears before thanking his wife Mirka, who saw him struggle through a succession of knee surgeries. Source: AAP / Kin Cheung/AP

During the changes, video screens showed iconic moments from Federer’s 24-year professional career with tributes from Nadal and his mother Lynette.

American duo Sock and Tiafoe, pantomime villains for the night, tested Federer’s reactions with some vigorous jabs aimed at the Swiss maestro who would have demanded nothing less.
Federer was equal to just about everything, his silky kick and nimble footwork very much intact despite such a long absence from the field of play.

The pair with a combined age of 77 and 42 Grand Slam titles between them edged out the first set by breaking Tiafoe’s serve.

Despite the party atmosphere in the stadium, there was no danger that Federer’s farewell match would turn into an exhibition.
It was serious business and after they crumbled at the start of the second, Federer and Nadal stormed back and looked set for a straight-sets victory, but were instead drawn into a tense tiebreak with the clock past midnight.

Chants of “Let’s Go Roger Let’s Go” rang out from the packed stands as Federer and Nadal fought their way to a victory the occasion demanded, only to fall agonizingly short.

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