Roger Federer announced in a letter Thursday that he’d be retiring from tennis. (You can also hear him read it, but it may induce blubbering—hypothetically speaking.) The 41-year-old last competed at Wimbledon in 2021, where he lost in the quarterfinals. Soon after that loss, he announced that he’d be undergoing surgery, his third procedure on his right knee in an 18-month span. As of last week, he was reportedly still playing through pain.
“As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries. I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form,” Federer wrote in his statement. “But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear. I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.”
Federer amassed 1,251 wins on tour, second only to Jimmy Connors. He won 103 titles, 20 of them at the majors. The final phase of his career might’ve been the most compelling. After a six-month layoff from a surgery on his left knee, Federer entered 2017 with low expectations, only to beat Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final and win Wimbledon without dropping a set, the year he turned 36. That kicked off a resurgence in form, renewing his rivalries against Nadal and Novak Djokovic. His last major title was the 2018 Australian Open, though he remained in the mix pretty much until the very end, most conspicuously in a 2019 Wimbledon final where he secured two match points on his serve before—hmm, I seem to have lost my train of thought.
Federer’s final event will be next weekend’s Laver Cup, his pet project, a team competition that he built with his management company. It’s effectively a luxe exhibition. It’s not exactly the Wimbledon sendoff his fans might have envisioned, but it appears that Hubert Hurkacz now has the honors of dispatching the king from formal competition with an uncharacteristic bagel set. Many of Federer’s records have been overtaken, mostly by his two rivals, but he still claims the longest sustained reign in the No. 1 slot: 237 consecutive weeks from Feb. 2, 2004 to Aug. 18, 2008. I may need about as long to figure out what to say about him.