The greatest Laver Cup match in history
As the sun set in London on the evening of September 23rd, the best tennis players on earth walked into the O2 arena to contest for the Laver Cup. As Team Europe took on Team World, all the eyes in the crowd were only on one person, Roger Federer, as he bid goodbye to the game he had helped make great. The Swiss Maestro was playing his final professional tennis match, a doubles match with his lifelong rival and close friend Rafael Nadal, in front of a packed O2 arena bathed in blue and red. Arguably the two greatest tennis players ever, who have won 42 grand slams between them, were playing as a doubles pair, but that didn’t really matter today. It was all about Federer. It was to celebrate Roger Federer, the athlete, the tennis player, the artist, and most importantly, the man. Roger Federer was the deserving superstar of this beautiful climax. As the crowd showered the Swiss legend with all their love and the commentators repeated his accolades and achievements, Federer and Nadal went about their business on the tennis court, as they have for over two decades. At one point during the match, a spectator who was wearing 11 “RF” t-shirts took off 10 of them like a Matryoshka doll as a tribute to his hero.More than his trophies and rankings, it was always about how Roger Federer played the game that will be associated forever with him. Through his artistry on the tennis court, Federer brought smiles to millions around the world, and today, as he bid goodbye, it was impossible to wipe the smile off his face in his farewell match. Be it aces, winners, backhands, forehands, volleys, overheads, double faults, or errors, Federer smiled at everything, and the crowd cheered every time he smiled. It might sound like an occasion where the tennis result did not matter as much, but the competitive spirit of these great athletes always comes to the fore. This was very much evident when a crucial call made by the chair umpire helped Team Europe get a break back in the second set. The ever-lively crowd went a bit sombre for a few minutes after this, realizing maybe there was more to this match. Federer would always be remembered for playing the game the right way. While he won, he played the right way, and while he lost, he had gone down fighting the right way. When he won, we rejoiced with him, and when he lost, we wept with him. We’d actually never seen him lose unless Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic came along and the Big-3 era began. The artist on the green grass of Wimbledon had met the clay courter who’d play every point as his life depended on it and the hard-court hurricane who’d play every point as precisely as possible. The story of Roger Federer would be incomplete without Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. It was quite fitting and ironic at the same time that Roger, in his final match, was playing with Nadal as his partner while Novak cheered them on from the bench of Team Europe.
In the twelfth game of the second set, Federer rediscovered his one-handed backhand, which had brought him so much success over the years. The sumptuous backhands naturally beckoned the retirement question. However, his elegant strokes had never left him, but it was the knee that had given up. The second set tie-break went against the 42-time grand slam winners, which took the match into the 10-point match tiebreak. After a few moments of disappointment for the crowd and the millions watching back home, on second thought, it meant watching the great man for some more time, one last time.