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Roger Federer Says Doubles Match With Nadal Could Be His Last

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LONDON — Roger Federer said Wednesday that he would close out his glittering tennis profession with one final match of doubles on Friday on the Laver Cup in London, and he hinted he would really like to achieve this in a pairing together with his longtime friend and rival Rafael Nadal.

Federer announced his retirement last week in a video posted on his social media accounts, saying that his age (41) and his fitness had finally convinced him the “the time had come” to finish a profession wherein he won 20 Grand Slam singles titles and greater than 100 tournaments over all. Federer has not played a competitive match in 14 months, and he said this week that he had “stopped believing” he could rehabilitate his latest knee injury enough to proceed at an elite level.

“I do know my limitations,” Federer said in a news conference on Wednesday. Appearing relaxed and calm in a blue blazer and white golf shirt, he managed his emotions — much to his relief, he admitted — but acknowledged that even he couldn’t make certain how he would perform.

“Obviously, I’m nervous stepping into, because I haven’t played in so long,” he said. “I hope it could possibly be somewhat competitive.”

Federer’s desire to play only doubles on the Laver Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event wherein competitors representing a Team Europe and a Team World are normally required to compete in not less than one singles match, required the approval of each team captains in addition to tour officials. Because the event is an official competition, Federer said he first sought the permission of the European captain, Bjorn Borg. When Borg agreed, they brought the concept to the World captain, John McEnroe, and to tour officials to make sure that his accommodation also had their approval.

Asked about reports that he was planning to team with Nadal in his final match on Friday night, though, Federer was coy because the matchups haven’t been announced.

“After all,” he said when asked if he would really like to exit in such a pairing. “Little question. I feel it might be quite a singular situation, if it were to occur.”

Champions are so often defined by numbers, and Federer’s rival any player in tennis history: 103 tour singles titles, 20 Grand Slam singles titles, 310 weeks ranked No. 1. He won a record eight Wimbledon championships, six more on the Australian and five on the U.S. Open in Recent York, where his matches drew celebrities and fellow athletes and on a regular basis fans captivated by his elegance, his poise and his craftsmanship.

In a single period at the peak of his profession, from early 2004 to October 2008, Federer held the No. 1 rating for an astonishing 237 weeks in a row. His 20 years at the highest of his sport spanned generations: Federer lost to the likes of Andre Agassi and Michael Chang as a young pro, traded shots and titles together with his Laver Cup teammates Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray for years; and was called an “idol” and “inspiration” last week by the sport’s rising star, the newly crowned U.S. Open champion, Carlos Alcaraz, who was born two months before Federer won his first major.

But while his victories defined his profession, his losses helped to humanize it. Federer will retire with a losing record against the opposite two defining stars of his era, Nadal and Djokovic, and he was defeated by them in two of the largest matches of his profession, against Nadal within the 2008 Wimbledon final and against Djokovic on the identical stage in 2019. Federer had held two match points on his serve at age 37 but couldn’t close out his victory.

He had, by then, learned to manage the flamable temper and competitive streak that had frustrated each coaches and his parents early in his profession, funneling his fire right into a more measured pursuit of perfection. His emotions were never removed from the surface, though, at times seeping out in tears, especially early in his profession, in victory and defeat.

He can be remembered most, though, for exuding cool: a shotmaker who painted corners and features like an artist, a dancer whose ability to glide around a singles court masked his power and precision, and made tennis, and particularly his tennis, look really easy, so natural.

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