(Tennis news) 20 time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer will play the last competitive game of his career on Friday night in London at the O2. The Swiss tennis player has been struggling with a knee problem in recent times and doesn’t feel fit enough to compete in the singles category. His last competitive match resulted in a defeat by Hubert Hurkacz in last year's Wimbledon quarter-finals.
The Laver Cup will feature Team Europe taking on Team World at a three day event with six players from each side playing at least one singles match. With Federer ruling himself out of the singles match, Italian Matteo Berrettini will take the 41 year old’s place over the weekend. Speaking in a news conference, Federer said “It's an event I don't want to mess with, but I know my limitations. I asked [Europe captain] Bjorn [Borg] if I could play one doubles on Friday night, then Matteo comes in. I'm nervous, I haven't played in so long."
In what should be a fitting send off, Federer hopes to team up with rival and friend Rafael Nadal for his final match. Speaking to BBC Sport, Federer said “It is clear that the most beautiful thing would be to play doubles here with Nadal, because it has been my great rivalry. I want to play at a level that is also OK for me but also for the fans and the event. I also want to enjoy myself but at the same time I want to try my best and to soak it all in. Eurgh, it's going to be very different in the next 48-72 hours but I want to look forward to it. I signed up for it and I wanted to – when I announced it – be around.
“I wanted to not just put out the news and be a ghost, I didn't want that, I wanted to be around. At the Laver Cup I have a wonderful platform being surrounded by everybody and feeling like it's a party." Team Europe features some of the biggest names in tennis such as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer while Team World will feature Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Diego Schwartzman, Alex de Minaur, Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
Speaking about his retirement, Federer said “The last three years have been tough to say the least. I knew I was on very thin ice for the last year ever since I played Wimbledon. I tried to come back but there was a limit to what I could do. And I stopped believing in it, to be honest. Then the question becomes: how do you announce and when do you announce? This is when it becomes reality. It was OK but stressful."
Speaking about his many achievements in his career, Federer said “I don't think anybody grows up and thinks they're gonna win this much. You know, you're happy with winning a Wimbledon title, which is already crazy, or becoming number one, being the best. But then you don't think how many weeks, this is only the media and the fans talking about breaking records. Before it was just, I hope to be on tour one day. Just to make it into the top 100 is a huge deal. Coming from a small country, we don't have a base of so many players. I totally overachieved in my mind. It's been an absolute dream that I've had for so long. And I know that, and that's why I'm totally happy to step away as well."
Speaking about the future of tennis, Federer said “When I came up, we didn't expect it either. You know, we were more on a bit of a downslope after [Pete] Sampras retired. What's gonna come next, right? Well, here I came, and then came Rafa. And then there was Novak, and then Andy, all together. All of a sudden, there was this beautiful mix, we're all winning for 10 plus years, all the same tournaments, almost nobody else could win anything else. It was like a lock on the big tournaments. So I think, also for the fans, it's been a joy to watch, and I'm sure some fans will be sad I'm leaving, of course, but then again, there will always be wonderful new people. I think our tour allows for incredible storytelling so that's why I know that the game is very safe, and I'm sure it will see incredible new superstars."