A Federer tribute video is playing on the big screen. Federer, still overcome by emotion, looks up from the court. Once it finishes, he’s called out for an on-court interview with Jim Courier.
“We’ll get through this somehow,” he says, voice trembling. “It’s been a wonderful day. I told the guys: I’m happy, I’m not sad.”
After shaking hands with Tiafoe and Sock at the net, a teary-eyed Federer returns to the Team Europe bench. He hugs each of his team-mates as David Guetta’s Titanium blasts through the O2 Arena sound system before heading over to the Team World bench and doing the same. Every soul in the building in on their feat in a standing ovation, screaming their throats out. Federer takes a seat, the tears streaming down his face. Behind him, Nadal is crying as well. What a moment.
Third-set match tiebreaker: Federer/Nadal 9-11 Sock/Tiafoe
And the Americans blink again as a forced error puts them down a minibreak. Federer to serve at 9-8 with the match on his racket! But Tiafoe pulls it out of the fire after the changeover, winning the next point for 9-all. Federer with one more serve … but Tiafoe responds with an absolutely thunderous forehand return winner. Match point for Team World with Sock serving at 10-9 … and after a lengthy rally Sock ends it with a forehand winner into the corner. It’s over!
Third-set match tiebreaker: Federer/Nadal 8-8 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
The Americans stay on serve behind another big Sock second serve. Now it’s Nadal with the next two points on his racket serving at 6-7. Federer slots a forehand winner at the end of a tense rally for 7-all, sending the crowd into roars. But Tiafoe rips a forehand directly into Nadal’s back to put Team World up a minibreak, drawing murmurs of consternation from the crowd. Tiafoe serving at 8-7 … and a missed backhand by Tiafoe puts them back on serve at 8-all!
Third-set match tiebreaker: Federer/Nadal 6-6 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Federer/Nadal win the next two points behind Federer’s big serve. Sock with the next two points on his racket serving at 5-6. Federer overcooks a return and they’ll change ends knotted at 6-all. First to 10 points, remember.
Third-set match tiebreaker: *Federer/Nadal 4-5 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
An unbelievable scoop-shot winner by Sock at the net puts the Americans ahead by a minibreak. He pumps his fist and screams in disbelief while playing to the crowd. Tiafoe with the first of two points on his racket at 4-3 … and a Federer winner puts them back on serve at 4-all. A sliding winner as Sock loses his footing at the net keeps them there. Federer to serve at 4-5.
Third-set match tiebreaker: *Federer/Nadal 3-3 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
It’s 10 minutes past midnight in London as the final stretch of Roger Federer’s career is under way. Sock and Tiafoe blink first, quickly going down a minibreak on the first point. Nadal and Federer follow with winners and Sock faces an early pressure point serving at love-3. He answers with a booming ace then forces Nadal into an error. Then forced error on Nadal’s serve gives the American another minibreak and levels the match at 3-all at the changeover.
Second set: Federer/Nadal 6-4, 6-7 (2-7) Sock/Tiafoe
A couple of loose points on the Federer serve and suddenly Sock and Tiafoe have four set points. And they need only one. Federer is forced into an error and we’re headed to a first-to-10 tiebreaker to decide this match!
Second set tiebreaker: Federer/Nadal 2-4 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Team Europe goes down a minibreak again on another unforced error by Nadal. They win the next point and now Sock will serve at 3-2. Another forced error at the end of a long rally makes it 4-2 to Sock/Tiafoe with the next point on their racket after the change of ends.
Second set tiebreaker: *Federer/Nadal 1-2 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Federer serves to start but Tiafoe conjures another massive return winner to immediately give Team World the early minibreak. Nadal, whose level has dropped, nets a backhand at the net, but a forced error by Sock puts them back on serve. Nadal to serve at 1-2.
Second set: Federer/Nadal 6-4, 6-6 Sock/Tiafoe
Sock cracks an ace to open his service game but a Federer winner makes it 15-all. A trade of points makes it 30-all and Federer and Nadal are two points from the finish line once more. Another trade of forced errors pushes it to deuce. Then Tiafoe follows with a deft forehand winner at the net before a netted backhand by Federer gifts Sock and Tiafoe the hold. We’re headed to a second-set breaker!
Second set: Federer/Nadal 6-4, 6-5 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Nadal falls behind love-15 on his serve on a sharp return by Tiafoe. The opportunity widens after Tiafoe punds a backhand winner for love-30, then further still after winning the next exchange for love-40 and triple break point. The Federer/Nadal team saved the first and second on a couple of forced errors, then the third when Sock frames a forehand on the approach and sends it past the baseline. Deuce. A forced error pushes Federer/Nadal to the brink of the game, but Tiafoe hits a sizzling forehand winner for deuce number two. An untimely Nadal double fault then gives Sock/Tiafoe a fourth look at a break, but Federer erases it with a forehand winner. A fifth break chance follows moments later, but Tiafoe can’t handle a Nadal’s forehand missle and we’re back to deuce. An electric rally covering every inch of the court follows, maybe the point of the match, and Sock ends it with a backhand winner for a sixth break-point chance in this game, which is now past the 10-minute mark. And that one is saved too when Sock nets a forehand. From there Nadal holds, winning the last two points on a couple of unforced errors by the Americans. Whew!
Second set: *Federer/Nadal 6-4, 5-5 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
After winning two quick points, Tiafoe double-faults for 30-15. Then Sock nets a forehand at the net and suddenly Federer and Nadal are two points from the finish line at 30-all. But they’re able to escape with the hold after Nadal makes an unforced error and Sock closes it out with an overhand smash.
Second set: Federer/Nadal 6-4, 5-4 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Another moment of pressure on Federer’s serve as a Tiafoe winner at the net pushes it to 30-all from 30-love. A trade of unforced errors gets it to deuce, but Federer holds comfortably from there. Tiafoe will serve to stay in the match after the change of ends.
Second set: *Federer/Nadal 6-4, 4-4 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Sock races out to 40-love on his serve before double-faulting, then nailing down the hold on the next point.
Second set: Federer/Nadal 6-4, 4-3 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Nadal backs up the break for Team Europe with a stress-free hold. The intensity of this match has markedly gone up in the last quarter hour.
Federer/Nadal break in sixth game of second set!
Second set: *Federer/Nadal 6-4, 3-3 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Tiafoe falls behind love-15 then 15-30 on his serve. He then double-faults for the first time in the match and suddenly Federer and Nadal have two opportunities to break back. And they need only one. Fedal win a lightly disputed point when Tiafoe appears to hit the ball twice. Team Europe have the break and we’re back on serve in the second.
Second set: Federer/Nadal 6-4, 3-2 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Federer is pushed to 30-all on his serve, but a couple of unforced errors by Sock and Tiafoe see the Europeans through to the hold.
Second set: *Federer/Nadal 6-4, 2-2 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
And now the pressure immediately swings to the Team World as Sock, who is playing his fourth set of the day, goes down 15-30 on his serve. He then nets a running forehand from the baseline early in a rally for 15-40, giving the Federer/Nadal team a pair of break points. The Americans erase the first, then the second, for deuce. But another overcooked forehand by Sock that leaves him wincing at the baseline gifts Federer and Nadal a third look at a break point. The European team can’t convert that one, either: Federer badly frames a return from outside the court. From there Sock and Tiafoe get out with the hold thanks to some deft net play.
Sock/Tiafoe break in third game of second set!
Second set: Federer/Nadal 6-4, 1-2 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Suddenly an opening for Sock and Tiafoe. They win two quick points on Nadal’s serve, then Tiafoe crushes a winner off the ground for love-40 and three break-point chances. Nadal brushes aside the first with a forehand winner early in a rally, then the second with a 115mph ace down the middle. But Sock/Tiafoe strike on the third when Sock pounces on a second serve and Federer’s stab at the net sends the ball sailing past the baseline.
Second set: *Federer/Nadal 6-4, 1-1 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Another pressure point for the American pair at 30-all on Tiafoe’s racket. But the US Open semi-finalist serves his way out of trouble, rattling off two quick points including a sizzling ace out wide to escape with the hold.
Second set: Federer/Nadal 6-4, 1-0 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
“You got a little bit caught up in the hoopla,” Team World captain John McEnroe tells Sock and Tiafoe during the setbreak. “I mean, it’s a beautiful thing but it’s even more beautiful if you win it.” Federer serves to open the set and it’s an uncomplicated hold of serve to start things off.
Federer/Nadal break in 10th game of first set!
First set: Federer/Nadal 6-4 Sock/Tiafoe
Tiafoe goes down love-15 on his serve. He follows with another booming ace for 15-all, but a gorgeous inside-out winner by Nadal followed by an unforced error get Federer and Nadal to deuce on the Team World serve for the first time tonight. The first pressure point of the day for the American duo. And Nadal answers with a forehand volley winner at the net into the alleyway and Team Europe have their first break-point opportunity of the match only moments after facing down their first. And they convert it! Sock sends a fairly simply backhand folley into the net early in a rally and Federer/Nadal have the break and the opening set!
First set: Federer/Nadal 5-4 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
The first pressure point of the match is on Nadal’s racket at 4-4, 30-30. And a backhand unforced error makes it 30-40, giving Sock and Tiafoe the first break-point chance of the match for either side. But Federer and Nadal rattle off three quick points from there with the Swiss capping the hold with a sharply angled volley winner at the net.
First set: *Federer/Nadal 4-4 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Another drama-free hold for Sock and we’re still on serve in the opener.
First set: Federer/Nadal 4-3 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Chants of “Let’s go Roger, let’s go!” ring through the O2 Arena as Federer steps to the baseline for his second turn on serve. He’s pressured a bit this time after an unforced error pushes it to 40-30, then a second serve. But Nadal bails them out with a volley at the net to nail down the hold. Says the Spaniard during the changeover: “It’s unbelievable when you don’t play doubles how slow you are on the net.”
First set: *Federer/Nadal 3-3 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Tiafoe breezes through another service game to keep pace with the Federer-Nadal pair. No real moments of danger in any of the six games so far.
First set: Federer/Nadal 3-2 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Nadal holds for Team Europe. Federer has overcome some early nerves and is firmly in the match. Elsewhere, the newly minted world No 1 is among the worldwide TV audience of millions.
First set: *Federer/Nadal 2-2 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
A quick hold for Sock and all four players have held their opening service games.
First set: Federer/Nadal 2-1 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Federer holds comfortably in his opening service game, despite losing a point where he managed to hit the ball through this gap between the net and the net post. Even at 41, he’s doing things we’ve never seen before.
First set: *Federer/Nadal 1-1 Sock/Tiafoe (*denotes next server)
Sock and Tiafoe cruise to a stress-free hold in their opening service game. Tiafoe, fresh off his inspired run to the US Open semi-finals which included a career-best win over Nadal in the fourth round, punctuates it with a booming ace.
First set: Federer/Nadal 1-0 Sock/Tiafoe* (*denotes next server)
Nadal is first to serve and he opens with a double fault. The ball was called in but a Tiafoe challenge overturned it. Federer then hits a forehand volley winner at the net early in a rally for 15-all, prompting another ovation. It could be a long night at this rate. Nadal makes it 30-15 with a lunging backhand volley into the alleyway before holding after a couple of errors by the Sock/Tiafoe team. A tidy hold for the crowd favorites after the double fault to start.
Federer and Nadal have just emerged from the tunnel to an extended standing ovation at a jam-packed O2 Arena. They’re trailed by Team Europe coach Björn Borg. They’ve now taken the court for their warm-up, trading shots with the American pair of Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe (who shared a court with Nadal not so long ago).
Two minutes to go.
The tributes have poured in from all over the world in the eight days since Federer announced his retirement. The great German footballer Philipp Lahm added to the pile with this thoughtful column in today’s Guardian.
Federer’s career path forms a stark contrast to the present. In times of professionalisation, young athletes are often treated like investments – especially in sports where there is a lot to earn, like tennis. At a young age, they are sent to academies and camps, which are talent factories. Athletes’ biographies are increasingly created outside the federation, outside society. They are privatised.
The entertainment industry of sport sees talent as a resource and a capital investment. As soon as it has identified the talent, it becomes a project. You take it out of the structures, do your own thing. The goal of the athlete is no longer to give something back to the community, but to optimise profit and build a business.
Because more and more people imitate this, many end up falling by the wayside. Talent is a rare gift. This is how sport distances itself from society. If it is no longer part of it, it loses its charm and credibility.
On Friday, the world can marvel at the genius of Federer one last time. It’s time to get nostalgic. Many Federer moments come to mind. I often think of the spring of 2017, when he experienced a resurgence after many injuries. He won Indian Wells and Miami. In Australia he beat Nadal in the fifth set despite being behind.
It was the time when I ended my career. I was happy that Federer continued and I watched all his matches then – it was a wonderful pastime. He proved his prowess to everyone again. That’s how I will remember Roger Federer.
Federer and Nadal alternated between their courtside dugout with the rest of their Team Europe team-mates and backstage during the Murray-De Minaur match.
Not much longer now. The players should be on court for tonight’s feature attraction momentarily.
Alex de Minaur has won 5-7, 6-3, 7-10 over Andy Murray in a first-to-10 match tiebreak. A bit of a slow starter, but it featured some very high quality over the last half hour. In fighting back from a set down, the 23-year-old Aussie has delivered a desperately needed point for Team World, who did not want to fall into a 3-0 hole right out of the gate.
A quick refresher on the Laver Cup format and where things stand ahead of tonight’s nightcap. A team-based, three-day event conceived as an equivalent to golf’s Ryder Cup, the competition consists of three singles and one doubles match daily. One point is awarded per win on day one, two points per win on day two and three points per win on day three.
Team Europe have won all four editions so far, though the title was decided in the 12th and final match on two occasions. Federer clinched the trophy in 2017 and Alexander Zverev did the same in 2019.
The Europeans are already out to a 2-0 lead in this year’s event after Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas pocketed singles wins in today’s afternoon session over Jack Sock and Diego Schwartzman, respectively.
Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic are all playing on Team Europe together for the first time. The Big Three, as they are widely known, have combined to win 63 of the last 77 grand slam championships (Nadal 22, Djokovic 21, Federer 20).
De Minaur has just taken the second set in his ongoing match with Murray. Under the rules, the match will be decided by a 10-point tiebreaker rather than a full third set, meaning tonight’s main event should be off and running by the top of the hour.
Hello and welcome to the O2 Arena for the final match of Roger Federer’s storied career. The 41-year-old Swiss great, who hasn’t competed since a quarter-final loss at Wimbledon to Hubert Hurkacz in July 2021, announced last week that he’s walking away from professional tennis following a series of operations on his right knee that made his long-sought comeback to the men’s tour untenable.
And so he’s bidding farewell tonight in London at the team event founded by his management company alongside his longtime rival and friend Rafael Nadal. The twosome are due to compete for Team Europe against the Team World doubles pairing of Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock.
It’s not the first time Federer and Nadal have featured on the same side of the court: they won a doubles match together in the first edition of the Laver Cup back in 2017. But they are far better known for their roles in one of the great rivalries in the history of sport. They’ve met a total of 40 times in singles (with Nadal winning 26), including 14 times at grand slam tournaments (with the Spaniard winning 10), none more memorable than their epochal showdown in the 2008 Wimbledon final.
“I saw him playing on TV before I arrived on tour. I saw him having success on TV, and then (we were) able to create an amazing rivalry together,” Nadal said yesterday. “And on the other hand, something that probably we are very proud of is having a friendly rivalry. Tomorrow is going to be a special thing. Difficult. Going to be difficult to handle everything, especially for Roger, without a doubt. But for me, too. At the end, one of the most important players – if not the most important player – in my tennis career is leaving.”
Federer and Nadal will take the court after the conclusion of the night’s first fixture, a singles meeting between Team Europe’s Andy Murray and Team World’s Alex de Minaur that’s currently in the second set.
Bryan will be here shortly. In the meantime here’s Tumaini Carayol’s lookahead to Federer’s swansong tonight in London.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – a group of the three greatest men’s tennis players of all time and the four defining competitors of the generation – were packed tightly together for their Laver Cup press conference on Thursday, when they all converged for the final time as professionals.
As they reminisced on their old matches and laughed about shared memories, glorious or devastating depending on the perspective, Federer interjected: “Sitting here, it feels good that I go first from the guys,” he said, smiling. “It just feels right.”
In many ways this final chapter of Federer’s career is bleak. Despite his reputation for avoiding serious injury through his career, his final years have been ravaged by physical problems. Unlike the recent intense, competitive departure of Serena Williams Federer cannot trust his knee to last more than one short doubles match. In his final bout alongside Nadal, his Team Europe teammate, he will enter the O2 Arena against Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock on Friday night simply hoping to compete at a respectable level.
But the circumstances are fitting. He will be seen off by three of the toughest opponents of his life, players who with him have defined this past decade and a half of tennis, pushing it forward in so many ways. Between them they have won 66 grand slam titles, faced off against each other 234 times and spent 933 weeks at No 1. For over a decade they packed out the later stages of each major event and blocked nearly all others from succeeding.
“Tomorrow’s gonna be a special thing,” said Nadal. “I think very difficult, difficult one. Gonna be difficult to handle everything, especially for Roger, without a doubt. For me too. At the end one of the most important players, if not most important player in my tennis career, is leaving, no?”