Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis players in history, retired

It could have ended differently. Roger Federer’s retirement has been talked about since 2016, when he injured his knee while bathing his daughters. A trivial and ridiculous circumstance collides close to its greatness, like the one in which Aeschylus killed a turtle that had fallen on its head at the hands of an eagle. On the other hand, it made sense: Federer played effortlessly, as natural as possible, and his divine tennis protected him from human injuries: only off the field could he get hurt. A lot has happened since then, and everyone has their favorite ending in their head.

In one of these fantasy finals, Roger Federer retired to Melbourne 2017, after lifting the Australian Open alongside his longtime enemy friend, Rafael Nadal. At the age of thirty-six, with his knee operated on, in the first tournament since his return, by defeating his strongest opponent, he emphatically demonstrated the divine prestige of tennis. At this point, why does the competition with humans continue?

On the other hand, Federer is not retiring, and what should have been a farewell tour becomes a second life, late but golden. He again wins Wimbledon and the other Australian Open. Not only is he not retiring, he plays better, for someone in the best version of himself, with a backhand like he’s never had before. Federer is able to finally solve Nadal’s mystery, and defuse him in his deadliest diagonal.

Another imaginary final taking place in the late afternoon of July 14, 2019. Roger Federer has his second match point in the Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic, and he’s lucky enough to get it with a comfortable forehand, the best forehand in history: Federer closes through with a forehand , lying on the ground crying, and with the gold cup in his hands, he announces his retirement from tennis. It didn’t work that way because life isn’t a novel and this head-on attack ended too short to beat a predator like Djokovic. And then many would have been satisfied with another ending, very bitter and romantic. Federer announced his retirement from playing in central defense after the most difficult defeat of his career. He announced his withdrawal from the top of a mountain of pain, while the flame of his tennis was still burning, and the world around us wept in collective despair. Tennis is a loser and therefore even more wonderful: too pure for the brutality of our time. This would have been the perfect ending, for the tennis player who was romanticized by his successes but above all by his defeats – numerous, often cruel and astounding. The God who falls and who gets dirty shows himself closer to man’s destiny. He deserved sympathy and understanding, while crying brought his face to the ground.

Instead, after that day, Federer is back on the court and may be the first to imagine a new ending to his story. The Wimbledon central scoreboard was frozen over that inexplicable score: 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3), and the only way to cancel and erase it was a memory Those two points of convergence (which became a “body” for Marco Emáricio) are to win and indulge in a perfect happy ending, perhaps at Wimbledon Park. The ending envisioned by Federer and his loving fans coincides with the disease.

Instead, in these three years, the scoreboard has remained steadfast on that score and time has slowly passed. The Covid-19 pandemic has suspended tennis, Wimbledon has been canceled for the first time since World War II, and Federer wrote on social media that it was devastated. Then we saw him reappear under the ice, in his home in the middle of the Swiss Alps, smiling as he dribbled onto the garage wall. He did not lose his childhood enthusiasm for tennis. We had to satisfy Federer’s livers all over the internet. Appearing on top of a building in Liguria, he plays with two girls from one building to another. Meanwhile, Roger Federer had to contend with the consumption of his body, and thus the passage of time.

The idea of ​​a tennis transcendent in all its physical and ruthless aspects, which Federer managed to embody to the end, was an illusion created by his talent. 1,400 rinks on one of the most stressful sports is an inescapable truth: it’s too much for any human being, let alone someone with a knee. Federer’s story at that point takes a dark turn for medication. It becomes a story of medical flyers, surgeries, rehabilitation and disturbing anecdotes, like when he says he can’t even ride a bike with his daughters without his knee swollen.

At that moment, many injured fans thought about this other final, in which Federer avoids returning to the field. That defeat with Djokovic still hanging on to cast his shadow forever, very painful, yes, but with a touch of parallel sentiment. At least we were going to protect ourselves from a painful sight, that was the thought at the time.

When Wimbledon 2021 returns, Federer is almost 40 years old and few believe in the possibility of a perfect finish. It is a surreal heroism today that faded into memories. It may not have already happened. Federer comes close to losing to lowly southern footballer Adrian Mannarino and watching the game is the closest experience to a sports funeral. It would be too much to think about divine intervention, or at least in bad taste, yet Mannarino gets hurt and Federer wins. Sad tunes become a religious celebration when you dance to your sad jaskeh, or your novice nori. His body looks incredibly fragile, but his tense purity is intact. Federer is still doing things that only Federer can do, his talent is made of eternal and ineffective substance at the time.

Like very few other athletes in history (Maradona, Jordan, Zidane?) Federer was able to suggest a metaphysics behind the gesture that opens a rift on a different level. At the end of his career, while his presence becomes disembodied, the spirituality of tennis has a special light. Before the quarter-final against Hubert Hurkacz we lived in this cloud where Roger Federer was still the best tennis player in the world. It seems that his imagination and our imagination correspond to reality: in 2017 he was shining and rejuvenating after a knee operation, so why could the magic not repeat itself?

Then that game came as a stumbling block to reality. Hurckacz, one of the best young tennis players in the world, turned out to be a very strong competitor. The untouchable dream of a player vanishes with the laws of time and human biology. Losing 6-0 in the final set at Wimbledon, he suffered the first 6-0 of his career in the All England Club promoter, and was asked not to retire, so as not to turn a dream of a perfect finish into a nightmare. the end. In a video message from home, Federer announced another knee surgery, but also announced that he would not be retiring.

His fans, known for their love on pathological frontiers, are still imprisoned in this oblivion of waiting to return, as other imagined endings multiply. The question is always the same: What goodbye does Roger Federer deserve? At the tournament held at home in Basel, in October, in the tournament where he was a football player for professional players? The tournament your mom worked in and can you see Stefan Edberg and Jimmy Connors up close? It would have been the last Wimbledon: at that point everyone would have accepted a defeat without the hysteria. At least we had our farewell with our feet on the grass, in the noblest place. No one has embodied the aristocratic spirit of tennis like Roger Federer, nor has it been activated like Wimbledon, which is the only place possible to receive the final greetings.

Instead, Federer’s farewell takes the form of two sheets of letterhead with a long letter written on them. Then his face froze in videos on social media, while he himself read a synthetic version of this speech. He will return to the Laver Cup, but will already be a former non-competitive tournament player. It will be the first version of Roger Federer’s new life. Perhaps he, too, would have preferred at least to get to Basel, but the condition of his knee was worse than he had expected. The news reached the masses at lunchtime on any working Thursday, on afternoons devoted to tears, messages exchanged with a heavy heart, seeing highlights, and memories with friends we shared moments with: Roger and us. Federer.

For years people fantasized about Roger Federer’s perfect farewell, but it was all just selfish desires. The truth is trivial: a hero of his caliber can say goodbye when he likes the best, and in the way he likes. His later years have often been interpreted as the chronic inability of an old champ to leave competitive life, media attention, and a successful career. It has to be seen as years when Federer gave us other parts of himself, without fear of appearing decadent, his tennis faded. It was a generous act.

The three years since that defeat to Djokovic have allowed us to grieve as gradually as possible. We learned to do without him, we and tennis, which started a new life without Roger Federer. The withdrawal comes just days after Carlos Alcaraz was crowned, for many, the only legitimate heir to the Big-3 throne. Two days ago, the Spaniard had expressed his desire to play against Federer one day. There will always be two tennis eras that will never touch each other.

For years, people have fantasized about Roger Federer’s retirement, begging for him to retire before the magic fades. But the idea of ​​peak decline is an abstraction that we make in an effort to maximize excellence in athletic performance, in an age of striving for continuous excellence to the last available drop of sweat. Or just because Federer was a part of us, our history, and we would have preferred to let that piece go before we saw her age. So that he does not see his divine image, which does not spoil, polluted. However, Federer’s love comes not only from his successes and the impossibility of tennis, but also from how he reconciles that perfection and error in which there is nothing divine, and wholly human. His beautiful and losing performance, his defeats ripened after a pile of missed opportunities. His tears, always gracious after victories but above all after defeats. Federer’s tennis was the religious experience that Foster Wallace described, but especially in recent years also the imperfection that belongs to humans. It was both.

With mourning starting everywhere, Federer’s speech was quite in style. It contains no trace of sadness and regret. Rather gratitude that he felt alive, “in joy and pain”, and the endless love for his opponents, for his fans, for tennis. The sadness he remembers in these hours is understandable, but it is mainly related to our perception of the passage of time, or to the idea of ​​Federer retiring with a big piece of tennis, due to the cognitive dysfunction for which he is. Many of us have not seen or known of tennis without it. It was also our privilege.

Federer was, and always has been, more real than we’d like to accept. There is no perfect ending, but there is still an echo of that love that will never end. As he wrote himself, there is plenty to celebrate.