Serena Williams welcomed Roger Federer at the “retirement club” after the 20-time Grand Slam champion announced that he would end his professional tennis career.
Federer has struggled with a knee problem for the past three years and, at 41, has come to terms with his failure to meet his last hurray.
He will be playing next week’s Laver Cup in London, a Ryder Cup-style competition that was his brainchild, but will then leave the pro game.
Williams, who said goodbye to the sport at the US Open less than two weeks ago, wrote on Instagram that she is one of the “million” people Federer has inspired in his 24-year career.
She said, “I wanted to find the perfect way to say this because you put the game to rest so eloquently – perfectly done, just like your career.
“I’ve always admired and admired you. Our paths have always been so similar, so much the same. You have inspired countless millions of people – including me – and we will never forget it.
“I applaud you and look forward to whatever you do in the future. Welcome to the retirees club. And thank you for being yourself.
Federer announced this on Thursday via a letter published on social media that began: “To my family of tennis players and beyond. Of all the gifts tennis has given me over the years, the greatest are without doubt the people I have met along the way: my friends, my players and most of all the fans who bring the sport to life. . Today I would like to share all the news with you.
“As many of you know, the last three years have brought me challenges in terms of injuries and surgery. I have worked hard to get back into full performance.
“But I also know the possibilities and limitations of my body, and its message has been clear to me lately. I’m 41 years old. In 24 years I have played over 1,500 games. Tennis has treated me more generously than I could have ever dreamed of, and now I need to recognize when it’s time to end my competitive career.
“The Laver Cup next week in London will be my last ATP event. Of course I will be playing more tennis in the future, but not in grand slam or on the road. “
Federer has not played a game by stakes since losing to Hubert Hurkacz in last year’s Wimbledon quarter-final.
He then announced that he needed another knee surgery as he had previously undergone two surgeries in 2020 that had kept him away for over a year.
The Swiss sought a full recovery from the last operation, but it was becoming increasingly clear that his rehabilitation was not going as well as he had hoped.
Federer’s grand slam record has now been broken by both his great rival Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, but many, especially the fans he brought to the sport, consider him to be the best of all time.
Federer said: “This is a bittersweet decision because I will miss everything the tour has given me. But at the same time, there is so much to celebrate.
“I consider myself one of the happiest people on Earth. I got an exceptional talent for playing tennis and did it at a level I never imagined, much longer than I thought possible.
A wonderful junior, the Swiss won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003 and the last one at the Australian Open four years ago in an unexpected three slam swan song.
His other records include most consecutive weeks at the world number one of 237 and 23 Grand Slam Semifinals in a row, as well as eight Wimbledon titles.
He thanked his family for their support, especially his wife Mirka, for the almost constant presence by his side throughout his career, and for their four children.
He continued: “I was lucky to have played so many epic games that I will never forget.
“We fought fairly, passionately and intensely, and I have always tried my best to respect the game’s story. I feel immensely grateful. We pushed each other and together took tennis to a new level.
“First of all, I have to thank my unbelievable fans especially. You’ll never know how much strength and faith you’ve given me.
“The inspiring feeling of entering full stadiums and arenas was one of the greatest emotions in my life. Without you, these successes would be more lonely than filled with joy and energy.
“The last 24 years on the road have been an amazing adventure. Although sometimes it feels like 24 hours has passed, it was also so deep and magical that it feels like I’ve been living my whole life. “
At the end of his letter, Federer wrote: “When my love of tennis began, I was a soccer child in my hometown of Basel. I watched the players with admiration.
“They were like giants to me and I started dreaming. My dreams made me work harder and started to believe in myself. Some success gave me confidence and I was on my way to the most amazing journey that had led to this day.
“So I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart to everyone around the world who helped make the dream of a young Swiss kid with a ball come true. Finally for the game of tennis: I love you and I will never leave you ”.
Federer will be making an impact on tennis thanks to the Laver Cup and the management agency he shares with longtime agent Tony Godsick, but it is not known what else he will do in retirement.
He continued to pay tribute on social media by writing: “Dear Roger, my friend and rival. I wish that day never came. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world.
“It was a pleasure, but also an honor and an honor to share all these years with you, having so many amazing moments on and off the pitch.
“In the future, we will have many more moments to share together, there are still many things to do together, we know that. For now, I wish you all the best with my wife Mirka, children, family and enjoy what is ahead of you. See you in London @LaverCup. “