Tennis moved ever closer to the end of a golden era as Roger Federer joined Serena Williams in calling it quits after an illustrious career.
Federer announced on Thursday that next week’s Laver Cup in London will be his final professional outing, following Williams’ emotional farewell at the US Open earlier this month.
With 43 Grand Slam singles titles between them, both players had elevated their sport to new heights and been dubbed “the best to ever wield a racket.”
Their departures, combined with the fact that Federer’s main rivals Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic aren’t getting any younger, have left fans yearning for a bygone era in the sport’s history.
Despite the fact that Federer’s decision was not unexpected given his recent struggles with injuries and form, tennis fans and former players expressed their sadness.
“I wanted to find the perfect way to say this, as you so eloquently put this game to rest — perfectly done, just like your career,” Williams said in an Instagram post, reacting to Federer’s retirement.
“I have always looked up to you and admired you. Our paths were always so similar, so much the same. You inspired countless millions and millions of people — including me — and we will never forget.
“Welcome to the retirement club.”
The triumvirate of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have dominated their sport for the last two decades, much like the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Williams, who turns 41 in 10 days.
Despite spending so many years on the road, they continue to draw fans to the stands and television screens, and their commercial appeal continues to captivate brands and advertisers.
Williams’ status in the sport was highlighted by the fact that her final match at Flushing Meadows was the most-watched tennis telecast in ESPN’s 43-year history, and the 2022 edition broke the tournament’s all-time attendance record.
THE BIG THREE
With their own accomplishments and riveting rivalries, the so-called men’s Big Three revolutionized the sport. Between them, they won 63 Grand Slam singles titles.
Federer faced Nadal 40 times, while Djokovic faced him 50 times, as the trio boosted each other and the sport as a whole, bringing in new and old fans. However, injuries to Williams, Federer, and Nadal in recent years have brought their retirement into sharper focus.
Fans and pundits have speculated on how the sport would cope with the loss of its most marketable athletes. With the departures of Williams and Federer in the last three weeks, the answers may be close at hand.
Nadal is a bit younger at 36, but a chronic foot injury forced the Spaniard to consider retirement in 2021, and again this year after he won a men s record 22nd major title at the French Open, playing with numbing injections before each match.
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