Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, announced his retirement last week. Federer, at 41 years old, will be walking away from the pro tour after the Laver Cup in London. It is a moment that every tennis fan knew was coming eventually but it was still shocking.
Federer has many accomplishments in his illustrious career. He retires with 20 Grand Slam titles, the record for most consecutive weeks as number one in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings and the record for the oldest male player to be number one in the ATP rankings.
Federer’s impact on the sport of tennis is undeniable. Federer dominated the ATP tour for many years until the emergence of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. He was the inspiration and idol for many current players such as Denis Shapovalov.
Federer’s retirement marks the official end of the big three era. The big three, consisting of Novak Djokovic, Rafeal Nadal and Federer, have dominated the sport for the last couple of decades. Out of the past 77 Grand Slam tournaments, the big three have won 63 collectively. Only males Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka have won multiple Grand Slam titles in this timespan.
Unfortunately, Federer did not go out in the most glorious fashion. There was no last dance at Wimbledon. His last professional match came against Hubert Hurkacz at Wimbledon in 2021. There was no hard-fought match, no glorious last stand. Federer was dispatched swiftly in straight sets. In the very last set, Federer got bageled in a humiliating fashion. Injuries derailed his comeback and very likely led to his decision to retire.
His career achievements are impressive, but he will not retire as the greatest of all time (GOAT). The GOAT discussion is solely dominated by Djokovic and Nadal. Nadal has 22 titles and Djokovic has 21, compared to Federer’s 20. Djokovic and Nadal both possess winning head-to-head records against Federer. Some of Federer’s most iconic chokes and mental meltdowns have come against these two. At Wimbledon 2019, Federer’s last real chance at another Grand Slam, the chosen one became the frozen one. No one had ever seen anything like it before. Serving for the match, up 8-7 40-15 in the fifth set, Federer choked two match points to Djokovic.
Federer looked shook, even though he was up in the score he looked nervous and stressed. Djokovic remained steely and composed. Watching that match, in my heart of hearts I knew Federer was never going to convert those opportunities because ultimately, Federer was never that guy when it mattered.
At the U.S. Open in 2011, Federer again possessed two match points against Djokovic. He could not convert and Djokovic ended up dispatching Federer en route to winning the whole tournament. In clutch situations Federer just never had the clutch gene, the killer instinct or the grit and the determination to stay humble and hungry that Djokovic and Nadal possess.
Besides the chokes, the biggest argument why Federer will never be the GOAT is his inability to overcome Nadal. Nadal is the undisputed best clay court player of all time. At the French Open, the only clay Grand Slam, Nadal has a win-loss record of 112-3. The only man to beat Nadal multiple times at the French Open is Novak Djokovic. Federer has one cubic zirconia Mickey Mouse title at the French Open in 2009 where he avoided Nadal.
Federer’s impact on tennis as an icon will never be rivaled by any other player. History will wash away his inability to win when it mattered and remember his graceful and elegant playstyle which has inspired millions. Federer is truly the chosen one of tennis. Thankfully for him, history will forget the numerous moments when the chosen one became the frozen one. It is for the best that he is remembered as the golden child of tennis.