Roger Federer said goodbye to professional tennis in the Laver Cup in London on Friday evening with his old competitor Rafael Nadal.
Federer, who has not competed in 15 months, and Nadal lost to Americans Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock, with a final score of 4-6, 7-6(2), 11-9.
After the match, Federer, the Swiss tennis legend and 20-time Grand Slam winner, appeared to burst into tears, waving to the cheering crowd with his mouth, “Thank you.”
“It was a perfect trip,” Federer said. “I would do it again.”
During the closing moments of the more than two-hour match that stretched past midnight, the spectators chanted ‘Let’s go, Roger! Let’s go!”
He was later pictured with his team wiping his eyes.
Federer announced last week that this tournament would be his last as a competitor. He had said before. he wanted this to be more of a celebration than a funeral, the Associated Press reported, so fans flocked out to celebrate.
Hours before Friday’s game, Federer tweeted: “I’ve done this thousands of times, but this one feels different. Thanks to everyone coming tonight.”
Federer’s last singles match was his loss in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in July 2021. His right knee was injured several times during the career and his final of three surgeries followed that final singles match.
He took time off — over a year — but told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on Sept. 16 that he realized it was time to retire.
“When I came back from vacation, I really felt a sense growing in me that I wouldn’t be able to come back,” he said. “I could feel very quickly that it’s done.”
In a post on social media announcing his retirement, the tennis champion said that after the “challenges” of his injuries and surgeries, he has “worked hard to get back to full competitive form.”
“But I also know my body’s capabilities and limits, and the message I’ve been giving me lately is clear,” he said. “I am 41 years old. I’ve played over 1,500 games in 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I could have ever dreamed, and now I have to recognize when it’s time to end my competitive career.”
Later, in a conversation with Guthrie, he said he is excited to spend more time at home with his family. Federer is father to twin boys Myla and Charlene, 13, as well as twin boys Lenny and Leo, 8. with his wife Mirka.
He told Guthrie that he feels his generation of tennis pros have “pushed tennis in the right direction.”
“And I think I did it my way. I’ve always been true to myself and people, it seemed, loved to watch me play, which I think is the ultimate compliment.”
The Associated Press contributed.