Big Four remember Federer’s greatest contests
With wife Mirka, their four kids and parents Robert and Lynette by his side, Roger Federer bid a tearful adieu to professional tennis at Laver Cup London.
Besides his nearest and dearest family, the Swiss ended his career on Friday September 23 with his fellow Big Four members of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray alongside.
The quartet’s reunion as part of Team Europe marked the first time they played a tournament together since the 2019 Australian Open and it truly brought them closer than ever.
They shared the bench during matches throughout the day, dined together and hung out in the locker room.
That countered the more common routine of arriving on site, practicing and/or playing, then heading back to the hotel.
Nadal and Djokovic — comprising the Big Three subsection with Federer that have amassed 63 majors — reflected on their most memorable contests against the 41-year-old.
Responses prompted both nostalgia and humor. Djokovic began first.
“Well, I’ll pick my first Grand Slam final, US Open 2007. I lost that match,” said Djokovic, before Federer interjected.
“He’s being nice, now,” he said, which elicited laughter in the media conference room at The O2 Arena. “I haven’t finished,” piped in the Serb.
Of course not.
“2019, sorry, Roger, finals of Wimbledon,” said Djokovic.
Djokovic saved two match points on Federer’s serve in the fifth set to prevail 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(4) 4-6 13-12(3) in four hours, 57 minutes.
Federer won 14 more points overall but Djokovic held firm in the three tiebreaks, not making a single unforced error.
Then it was Nadal’s turn.
“Well, I have to name 2008 Wimbledon have been always special I think, for me of course, but I think for him, too,” Nadal said.
“Yeah, very,” a smiling Federer said. “It’s all coming back.”
Another gut wrenching five-set reverse for Federer, who had beaten Nadal in the previous two Wimbledon finals.
Federer saved a match point in the fourth set tiebreak with a glorious backhand passing shot down the line, only for Nadal to triumph 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(8) 9-7 in four hours, 48 minutes and fading light.
Many consider it the greatest match of all time.
Nadal, like Djokovic, also cited a match he lost.
“The 2017 final in Australia was another very special one, because different significance,” the Spaniard said. “But a few months before we were together, injured.”
So much so that an exhibition match to mark the opening of Nadal’s academy in Mallorca gave way to the pair hitting with kids.
In Melbourne, Federer eked out three five-setters, including in the final against Nadal to end a 10-year Grand Slam losing streak against the left-hander.
A day earlier when Federer addressed the media alone, he confirmed that the 2017 final was one of his career highlights.
“Off the top” of his head, bagging a first Wimbledon title in 2003, downing Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001 and winning his lone French Open crown in 2009 further came to Federer’s mind.
In all, Federer battled Djokovic 50 times and Nadal 40.
Murray lost all three Grand Slam finals he played against Federer, although did come out on top in the 2012 Olympic final at Wimbledon.
This Laver Cup week played in front of his home public stirred the 35-year-old’s emotions, too.
“I have thought a lot about my own career and the matches that I played and talked to the guys, Roger, Rafa, Novak, about the matches that we played against each other,” the three-time Grand Slam champion, hit hard by hip issues, said Friday. “And I have never done that consistently or as much as we have the last few days.”