Saturday, September 17, 2022 9:10 am
Multiple Grand Slam winners Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic have both hailed the influence of the retiring Roger Federer on tennis, the BBC has reported.
Williams, who has said she is ‘evolving away from tennis’ herself, said he was an inspiration.
Djokovic praised the “decade of incredible moments and battles”.
Federer, 41, will end a career that featured 20 Grand Slam singles titles after the Laver Cup, which begins in London on 23 September.
“You inspired countless millions and millions of people – including me – and we will never forget,” said Williams, who played against the Swiss star only once on court, facing off in a mixed doubles match at the Hopman Cup in 2019.
“Welcome to the retirement club. And thank you for being you.
“I have always looked up to you and admired you. I applaud you and look forward to all that you do in the future.”
‘Federer a great who reached sporting perfection’.’
Djokovic, who has faced Federer on 50 occasions since 2006 on the ATP Tour, also posted an emotional tribute on Instagram.
“It’s hard to see this day and put into words all that we’ve shared in this sport together,” said the 21-time Grand Slam winner.
“Over a decade of incredible moments and battles to think back on, your career has set the tone for what it means to achieve excellence and lead with integrity and poise. It’s an honour to know you on and off court, and for many more years to come.”
Britain’s Andy Murray also said Federer’s retirement was a “sad day for the sport”.
Murray, a three-time major singles champion, will play alongside Federer for Team Europe at the Laver Cup.
“I was lucky to get to compete against him in some of the biggest matches, in the biggest tournaments, on the biggest stages in our sport,” Murray said.
“At the time I probably didn’t appreciate it as much but now, looking back, it is pretty amazing.
“Maybe I [will] get the opportunity to share a court with him in doubles or something like that, and that would be really special.”
British number two Dan Evans, who has previously practised with Federer at his Switzerland base, also offered praise.
“Roger was cool – I think the biggest compliment I can give him is he was a very normal, down-to-earth person who obviously had king-like status in the sport,” Evans said.
“He treated me and he treats everybody exactly like the normal bloke on the street would their mate.
“He would say hello to everybody on tour. He’ll be sorely missed.”
Federer’s decision to retire from the sport after three years blighted by knee injuries has prompted a wave of tributes.
His great rival Rafael Nadal – the only other player, along with Djokovic, with more Grand Slam singles titles than Federer – said it was “a sad day” for sport.
Current world number ones Iga Swiatek and Carlos Alcaraz, 21 and 19 respectively, thanked Federer for inspiring them.
“I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done and everything you are for our sport,” Pole Swiatek said.
“It’s been a privilege to witness your career. I wish you all the best.”
Spaniard Alcaraz said: “Roger has been one of my idols and a source of inspiration! Thank you for everything you have done for our sport. I still want to play with you!”
Andy Roddick, who lost to Federer in a five-set Wimbledon final in 2009, joked that Federer’s retirement could prompt him to launch an All England Club comeback.
“Thanks for the shared memories my friend,” the American said.
“It was an honour to share time/experiences on the most hallowed grounds in our sport. Don’t be a stranger.
“Also, seems like a good time to start training for Wimby (obviously kidding).”
The key numbers in Federer’s career
20 Grand Slam singles titles 310 weeks as world number one
103 ATP titles 28 Masters 1,000 titles
6 ATP Finals victories 31 Grand Slam finals
1 Davis Cup triumph £114m career prize money
Federer’s appeal extended to legends of other sports.
Argentina and Paris St-Germain forward Lionel Messi described Federer as a “genius”.
“Unique in tennis history and a role model for any sportsman,” said the 35-year-old.
“I wish you the best in your new stage. We will miss seeing you on the court.”
Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, a regular in Wimbledon’s Royal Box, said, like many, that the style of Federer’s tennis had captivated him.
“What a career,” he said. “We fell in love with your brand of tennis. Slowly, your tennis became a habit. And habits never retire, they become a part of us.”