A tearful Roger Federer paid tribute to his wife Mirka and said he was “happy and not sad” despite ending his professional career with a Laver Cup doubles loss alongside Rafael Nadal.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion announced last week that he would be retiring from competitive tennis with a final match at the Ryder Cup-style competition which was his brainchild.
London was the destination for the fifth edition of the Laver Cup, the city of some of Federer’s greatest triumphs, but the Swiss superstar couldn’t add one more win to his illustrious resume.
World team duo Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe proved pantomime villains with a 4-6 7-6(2) 11-9 win at 02, but it was still a party for the 41-year-old .
Federer enjoyed a long hug with former sparring partner Nadal at the end of the match before receiving a final standing ovation from a sold-out crowd as the clock was well past midnight.
“We’re going to get out of this one way or another,” Federer said on the pitch.
“Listen, it was a wonderful day. I told the guys I’m happy, I’m not sad. It’s great to be here and I enjoyed tying my shoes again.
“Everything was the last time. Pretty funny with all the games, being with the guys and having family and friends, I didn’t feel the stress so much even though I felt like something was going to happen during the game. I’m so glad I made it and the game was great. I couldn’t be happier.
“Of course, playing with Rafa in the same team, having all the guys here, the legends, Rocket (Rod Laver), Stefan Edberg, thank you.
“It feels like a celebration to me. I wanted to feel like this at the end and that’s exactly what I was hoping for so thank you.
“It was a perfect trip and I would do it again…”
Federer had to fight back tears before thanking his wife Mirka, who watched him struggle through a succession of knee surgeries before finally admitting defeat in his quest to return last week.
He added: “Thank you all. I’ve had so many people cheering me on and you guys here tonight mean the world.
“My wife was so supportive… she could have stopped me a long, long time ago, but she didn’t. She kept me going and allowed me to play so thank you. She is incredible.”