Tennis great Roger Federer announces retirement after illustrious career

Swiss tennis champion Roger Federer announced he is retiring from the game after a legendary career. He's a 20-time Grand Slam champion, including eight Wimbledon titles and five consecutive U.S. Opens. Federer will play his final competitive matches next week at the Laver Cup in London. Tennis star and broadcaster Patrick McEnroe joined Geoff Bennett to discuss the impact of Federer's career.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    The sports world is losing a legend. Swiss champion Roger Federer announced today he is stepping away from competitive tennis.

    Geoff Bennett has more.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Twenty-time Grand Slam champion, eight Wimbledon titles and five consecutive U.S. Opens.

    For two decades, Roger Federer has built one of the greatest records in the game's history. He holds the professional tennis record for the most consecutive weeks at number one and the record for the oldest player to rank number one. That was at age 36 back in 2018. But injuries and surgeries over the last three years have taken their toll.

    Today, Roger Federer broke the news of his retirement in a letter he read to fans over social media.

  • Roger Federer, Professional Tennis Player:

    I have worked hard to return to full competitive form. 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 1,500 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.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Federer will play his final competitive match next week in London.

    To discuss the impact of the career he leaves behind, I'm joined by former professional tennis star and ESPN broadcaster Patrick McEnroe.

    It's great to have you with us.

    And Roger Federer's tennis agent, I learned today, said that he had been trying to convince Federer to retire years ago, but that Federer was always interested in challenging himself.

    How does the news of his retirement, how does that strike you?

  • Patrick McEnroe, Former Professional Tennis Player:

    It's actually kind of emotional for me, believe it or not.

    And I'm supposed to be unbiased, right, as a commentator for 25-plus years with ESPN. But Roger Federer affects people. And I think that's part of his genius and his popularity, is not just that he's one of the greatest tennis players to ever pick up a racket. That, we all know.

    But I think it was his ability to connect with people at every level all over the world. He's one of the most recognizable figures, athletes, certainly, on the entire planet. And he did it with a grace. He did it with an elegance. He did it with a competitive spirit that was, yes, intense, but also very joyful about the way he went about playing the game.

    And I think, as you heard from his agent one, of the reasons Roger has been able to do it for so long at such a high level is because he just loves the game of tennis. He loves the sport. He loves to play the game. He loves to be around the game. Of course, he loves to win and he loves to compete and battle, but I think it's his passion for the game that has separated him.

    And if what we saw at this year's U.S. Open is any inkling of what's to come in the world of tennis, I think he's left his mark in more ways than just what he's done on the court, but also the way he's he's handled himself, the way he's treated the game, because these young superstars that we saw at the U.S. Open were, quite frankly, electrifying in the way they played the game, but also in their demeanor on the court.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Yes.

  • Patrick McEnroe:

    And I think we can thank Roger Federer for all of them.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Well, a question about what he's done on the court.

    I mean, how would you characterize his impact on the way that the game is played? I mean, his serving, his footwork, his forehand, his single backhand, all of that will certainly be remembered. How did it advance the way that the game is played?

  • Patrick McEnroe:

    Well, I think what happened in the early 2000s is that the game started to get way more powerful. And you started to see big servers, and then players sort of bludgeoning the ball.

    And then Roger Federer came along, and he was a little bit of a throwback. In other words, he was a classic player with, as you said, a one-handed backhand. He played with slice. He played with finesse. He played with grace. He could come to the net. He could hit drop shots. But, yes, he could also play the power game.

    So he took the classical game, and he brought it into the modern era of tennis. And he forced the other players, most notably Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, to continue to improve their games to keep up with him, to catch up to him and eventually, in the case of those two, to pass him, at least in terms of total Grand Slam wins.

    So I think, in that way, he left a mark with the way he played the game and pushed the envelope for the rest of the field. But, again, to me, it was his ability to show that you could be a great champion, but also do it with dignity, grace, sportsmanship, cry when you lost, cry when you win, show your emotions out on the court.

    And when you saw Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner play just a spellbinding match at the U.S. Open, I was thinking to myself, we can thank Roger Federer for this, because he raised the bar in a big way.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    As I understand it, you have a personal memory or two that you can share with us. Give us one of them.

  • Patrick McEnroe:

    Well, one of them was one of the first times I was working in television. I was covering a big tournament in Cincinnati, and it was the final day.

    And Roger Federer played James Blake, a great young American player at the time. And he just destroyed him in about 49 minutes, which, in a final, is very fast. And I was sitting down next to him about to interview him on live TV. We had gone to a commercial break. They didn't do the trophy ceremony yet. I sat down next to his bench right there on the sideline.

    I said: "Roger, congratulations. Well done. Is it OK if I ask you a few more questions than normal? Because you took care of the match so quickly, we need some extra time to fill."

    And he said: "Oh, sure, no problem."

    And then he looked at me and he said: "You know, Patrick," he said, "I ball boy-ed for you."

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Patrick McEnroe:

    I said: "What?"

    He goes, "Yes, I ball boy-ed for you in Basel," which was his hometown, stadium named after him.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Yes. Yes.

  • Patrick McEnroe:

    He said: "Yes, you played the final against Wayne Ferreira, right?"

    I said: "Yes, you're damned right I did." I said: "You must have been rooting for me, weren't you?"

    He goes — and he gave me that sheepish little grin. He said: "Well, no, because Ferreira was — is South African, and my mom's South African."

    But it was — it was amazing just that he had the wherewithal at that moment to think about me. I'm just some little reporter, former journeyman tennis player. And that's the kind of person he is. And that's the way he's touched all of us in the tennis world, in the tennis community, and his respect for the game and just people around him.

    That's why he's one of the most beloved athletes of all time.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Absolutely.

    ESPN's Patrick McEnroe, thanks again for your insights and for making time for us.

  • Patrick McEnroe:

    Thank you for having me.

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