Roger Federer leaves the stage. In a message posted Thursday afternoon on his social networks, he announced the news that everyone dreaded while having had time to assimilate it slowly since his very last match in official competition, Wednesday July 7, 2021. quarter-final of Wimbledon, on the Center Court, where he will have written the most famous pages of his legend. Shortly after, his recalcitrant knee had forced him to go through the operating table again. Despite the desire to return, and perhaps even more the desire to play again, he ended up giving up.
Twenty-four years of a legendary career are coming to an end. There is everything that books will hold coldly and everything that those who knew him will keep preciously warm. It is essential to distinguish between the two, because the heritage that a champion leaves to his sport often goes beyond the coldness of the numbers and the prize lists. This is perhaps even more true in his case than for others.
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A gigantic track record
But Federer is also a winner. 20 Grand Slam titles. Eight at Wimbledon, his garden. Five at the US Open, gleaned consecutively between 2004 and 2008, when no one since has managed to retain their title even for a year. Six crowns in Australia. And this little Roland-Garros, won in 2009, came to fill a hole which, without this Coupe des Mousquetaires, would have remained gaping. We will add six victories at the Masters, a record, 28 Masters 1000, a Davis Cup (the real one) and 103 titles in total, which makes him one of the two centenarians in this field, behind Jimmy Connors.
For those who do not know Roger Federer, these few lines filled with statistics would say a lot, but not necessarily the essential. It will therefore be necessary to tell those who will arrive after us, who Roger Federer really was and why seeing him play was an experience bordering on pleasure.
You could love him or not, prefer other champions, but it was impossible not to recognize that he was unique. A kind of ideal player. Not invincible (even if he dominated outrageously for several years), Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic even managing to surpass him, but of a different, almost indefinable nature.
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Everyone will therefore add the word that suits them best. Classicism, in the noblest sense of the word. Talent. Elegance. Class. Beauty. Purity. A bit of all of that, probably. He is not the first champion flanked by such virtues and, let us hope, not the last, but no one has ever carried such a standard so high, for so long and this costume suited him better than any other. who else.
Federer, genius and icon
Like all geniuses, the Swiss gave the feeling that what he produced on the court was of absolute simplicity. The person, in the stands or in front of his TV, could almost feel the obviousness of what was offered to him, while measuring the inaccessibility of the thing. This is the magic of genius: this subtle alloy of absolute simplicity and the unattainable. In the world of sport, few people have it. As for tennis, he was the only one.
Because it was unique, such a specimen cannot be replaced. Overwhelmed, yes, perhaps, in terms of the thickness of the charts and his two companions of the “Big 3” who, like everyone else, must feel a little weird this Thursday, did not hesitate to s tackling this task which nevertheless seemed insurmountable ten or twelve years ago.
Beyond the player and the champion, Roger Federer had turned into a total icon of modern tennis, capable of making winter tours of South America where he was welcomed like the Beatles at the height of their glory. This status of ambassador, he learned to assume it and seems to have liked it. This is also what London will celebrate in a week’s time, at the Laver, “His” Laver Cup, where he will appear for the very last time as a player. Don’t miss it.
At 41, Roger Federer now belongs for good to the history of tennis and memories. In one as in the other, it will easily hold a monumental and unique place. It is the luxury of his legacy. He leaves behind memories and takes everything else with him.
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