Roger Federer will hang up his racquet as one of the greatest and most beloved sportsmen in history.
The Swiss icon, 41, has announced his decision to retire from competitive tennis after the Laver Cup in London next week.
After 20 Grand Slam titles, 1,251 won matches and over £113million in career prize money, the curtain will come down on one of the most illustrious careers in sporting history.
Federer has won Wimbledon eight times, more than any other player, and reigned as world number one. 1 for 310 weeks, including a record 237 consecutive weeks.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic ensured that Federer’s remarkable talent did not go unchallenged and both topped the Swiss Grand Slam tally.
However, few would say that there has ever been a better tennis player than Federer on the rise.
Beautiful elegance on the court, led by that signature one-handed backhand, made Federer a privilege to watch.
And that class transcended the field to make him one of the nicest people in the sport.
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Former star Andy Roddick once said, “She’s a real person. He is not an enigma. Off the pitch, he’s not trying to be someone.
“If you met him at McDonald’s and you didn’t know who he was, you would have no idea he is one of the best athletes in the world.”
And British tennis icon Andy Murray once paid tribute to his close friend in a typically funny way.
“I can cry like Roger, it’s just a shame I can’t play like him,” he said.
But beyond the world of tennis, Federer has inspired superstars at every level.
Manchester United sensation Cristiano Ronaldo has cited Federer as an example for athletes trying to compete in the later years of their careers.
He said: “In sport you can mature. Watch Federer in tennis. He’s 37 or 38 and he’s still in his prime.
Ronaldo is not the only one. Golf legend Tiger Woods also took inspiration from Federer to come back and triumph against all odds.
After Federer won the 2017 Australian Open beating Nadal following a six-month injury layoff, Woods was recovering 16 months from multiple back surgeries and seeking a first major title since 2008.
“As you get older, you change your game and you do things slightly differently, and that’s what he did,” Woods said of Federer.
“Am I going to do this? Yeah, I’m not going to hit balls like some of those guys, 340, over there.
Woods added: “What Rog did was he was dominant for so long.
“To compete with [Djokovic]to compete with Rafa, and now Andy [Murray] plays well. He had a litany of guys who won slams. And no one wins a slam at their age.
“And for him to come back, having had to take so long, and for him to have the timing, that’s the hardest part.”
Woods will win the Masters in 2019 at the age of 43.
In boxing, British heavyweight Anthony Joshua once admitted he wanted to be the Federer of his sport.
Speaking as the 2017 world champion Joshua said: “Before I was happy to just be part of boxing and I felt like wherever I went it was always better than where I went. had started. I never had a minute to think.
“But now I want to mark my mark and my legacy, and be among the likes of Federer.
“If I want to be seen as those guys, I have to behave in the right way.
“I want to be like the Ronaldos, Messis, Federers who compete with Nadal, Murray. That’s where I want to take boxing.
The game recognizes the game, which is why Michael Jordan and Serena Williams have also been lyrical about Federer.
“I think he looks so slick,” Jordan commented in 2014. “You know, I’ve seen it on TV. I’ve seen a lot of tennis on TV.
“But you never really understand how smooth, relaxed and fundamentally healthy he can make this game.”
And Williams, who also retired this summer, summed it up perfectly last year.
“I think two words sum it up: Roger Federer,” Williams said of his legacy.
“He’s just a synopsis of grandeur and class and amazing and really changed the game.
“You see players playing like him, moving like him, doing his techniques. The guy is [a] genius.”
She added: “I just feel like he really is the greatest player. Look at him.
“You can’t not like the guy, that’s how I feel. His game is so fantastic. If only I could play like him!
The greatest athletes in history reserve a special kind of praise for their equals – and they all know Federer is one of them.