The last one month has seen the departure of two legends of the tennis game from playing in major tournaments. 41-year-old Roger Federer yesterday joined 40-year-old Serena Williams in announcing his retirement.
In an emotion-laden letter published on his Instagram handle and other major social media platforms, ‘Federer Express’ as he was fondly called internationally, confirmed what many of his fans had been expecting, judging by his absence from several tournaments in the last year.
His Nigerian tennis followers call him ‘Baba Ibeji Times Two’, because of his double set of twins. Federer and wife Mirka have two sets of twins – 13-year-old girls, Myla and Charlene, and eight-year-old boys, Leo and Lenny.
Charlene Riva and Myla Rose were born on July 23, 2009 while Lenny & Leo were delivered on May 6, 2014.
Roger Federer was born on 8th August 1981 in Basel, Switzerland but he has African roots, as his mother, Lynette Federer hails from South Africa. Roger got married to his wife Mirka in 2009 and had their twin girls same year.
His retirement notice yesterday captured his feelings and those of others on his impending departure from the game to which he has contributed so much.
“To my tennis family and beyond,
“Of all the gifts that tennis has given me over the years, the greatest, without a doubt, has been the people I’ve met along the way: my friends, my competitors, and most of all the fans who give the sport its life. Today, I want to share some news with you all.
“As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear. I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognise when it’s time to end my competitive career. The Laver Cup next week in London will be my final ATP event. I will play more tennis in the future, of course, but just not in Grand Slams or on the Tour.
“This is a bittersweet decision because I will miss everything the Tour has given me. But at the same time, there is so much to celebrate. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level that I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible. I would like to especially thank my amazing wife Mirka, who has lived through every minute with me. She has warmed me up before finals, watched countless matches even while over eight-months pregnant, and has endured my goofy side on the road with my team for over 20 years. I also want to thank my four wonderful children for supporting me, always eager to explore new places and creating wonderful memories along the way. Seeing my family cheering me on from the stands is a feeling I will cherish forever.
“I would also like to thank and recognise my loving parents and my dear sister, without whom nothing would be possible. A big thank you to all my former coaches who always guided me in the right direction… you have been wonderful! And to Swiss Tennis, who believed in me as a young player and gave me an ideal start. I really want to thank and acknowledge my amazing team, Ivan, Dani, Roland, and particularly Seve and Pierre, who have given me the best advice and have always been there for me. Also Tony, for creatively managing my business for over 17 years. You are all incredible and I have loved every minute with you. I want to thank my loyal sponsors, who are really like partners to me; and the hard-working teams and tournaments on the ATP Tour, who consistently welcomed all of us with kindness and hospitality.
“I would also like to thank my competitors on the court. I was lucky enough to play so many epic matches that I will never forget. We battled fairly, with passion and intensity, and I always tried me best to respect the history of the game. I feel extremely grateful. We pushed each other, and together we took tennis to new levels. Above all I must offer a special thank you to my unbelievable fans. You will never know how much strength and belief you have given me. The inspiring feeling of walking into full stadiums and arenas has been one of the huge thrills in my life. Without you, those successes would have felt lonely, rather than filled with joy and energy.
“The last 24 years on Tour have been an incredible adventure. While it sometimes feels like it went by in 24 hours, it has also been so deep and magical that it seems as if I’ve already lived a full lifetime. I have had the immense fortune to play in front of you in over 40 different countries. I have laughed and cried, felt joy and pain, and most of all I have felt incredibly alive. Through my travels, I have met many wonderful people who will remain friends for life, who consistently took time out of their busy schedules to come watch me play and cheer me on around the globe. Thank you.
“When my love of tennis started, I was a ball kid in my hometown of Basel. I used to watch the players with a sense of wonder. They were like giants to me and I began to dream. My dreams led me to work harder and I started to believe in myself. Some success brought me confidence and I was on my way to the most amazing journey that has led to this day. So, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart, to everyone around the world who has helped make the dreams of a young Swiss ball kid come true.
“Finally, to the game of tennis: I love you and will never leave you.
The Swiss legend’s career has been as historic as they come. He held World No. 1 in the ATP Rankings for 310 weeks, second-most since 1973 behind only Novak Djokovic. However, Federer held top spot for a record 237 consecutive weeks from 2nd February 2004 until 18th August 2008.
Over 24 years as a professional, Roger brought millions of adoring fans into the game. 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. There is no doubt that 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 racquet. Federer served as president of the ATP Player Council from 2008 to 2014 and later rejoined the council from 2019 to 22 and was influential in securing significant prize money increases for players. Through the Roger Federer Foundation, the Swiss has assisted almost two million underprivileged children in Africa.
At Roland Garros in 2009, Federer completed the career Grand Slam and at Wimbledon one month later, he broke Pete Sampras’ all-time men’s singles record by lifting his 15th major trophy. He went on to claim 20 Grand Slam trophies, which now only trails Rafael Nadal (22) and Djokovic (21). The Swiss earned six Australian Open triumphs, the 2009 Roland Garros title, eight Wimbledon trophies and five consecutive US Open victories (2004-08). Federer earned 1,251 tour-level wins during his illustrious career, the second-most victories on record behind only Jimmy Connors’ 1,274. The Swiss also claimed 103 tour-level trophies, only trailing Connors’ 109.
Federer is also the winner of a record 40 ATP Tour Awards: ATP Tour No. 1 (2004-07, 2009), Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of Year (2006, 2013), Comeback Player of the Year (2017), Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship (2004-09, 2011-17) and Fans’ Favourite (2003-21). He is also the most-decorated athlete in the history of the Laureus World Sports Awards, winning Sportsman of the Year five times (2005-08, 2018) and Comeback of the Year in 2018.
Roger Federer got to the top of the sport for the first time aged 22, reaching World No. 1 on 2 February 2004. From there, he enjoyed a peerless reign. From 2004-06, he tallied an astonishing 247-15 record, a winning percentage of more than 94 per cent. His resilience was legendary and he never retired from a match. Federer became the oldest World No. 1 in the history of the ATP Rankings on 19th February 2018 at age 36.
Just like Serena Williams, Roger Federer has surely paid his dues and his spick span reputation of a nice, clean guy always set him apart from others, as he never seemed to lose his cool with others, except with himself.
Happy Retirement to Baba Ibeji Times 2 – Roger Federer!
IMAGE/SOURCE CREDIT: ATPTOUR.COM/GETTY IMAGES