The stage is set and the props ready for Friday night’s final act of Roger Federer’s extravaganza. Andy Murray spoke on behalf of all of tennis when he said: “I think it will be emotional.”
With a packed house of more than 15,000 fans gathered at the O2 Arena on Thursday to watch Federer’s practice, this weekend’s Laver Cup has already gone from a fringe event to blockbuster status.
Indeed, one wonders which London-based match will generate more global interest this year: the Wimbledon final or Federer’s now-confirmed doubles farewell to his staff.
Nadal is to partner with Federer, as expected, while the American duo of Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock form the opposition. Asked about the challenge on Thursday, Tiafoe joked, “I’m just excited to play against two newcomers.”
Even Nadal seemed nervous, having arrived as late as possible due to the delicate condition of his pregnant wife, Maria Francisca Perello.
“It’s going to be difficult to deal with everything,” Nadal said, “especially for Roger, no doubt. For me too. One of the most important players, if not the most important in my tennis career, is leaving , Nope ?”
Within the world team – who are worried about not being chosen as the villains of the play on Friday – a phrase resurfaces. When they instinctively find themselves referencing Federer’s “last dance,” they echo Michael Jordan’s run to the 1998 NBA championships, which bequeathed a hit Netflix documentary by the same name.
The comparison – like everything else this weekend – is bittersweet. While it accurately reflects Federer’s position among the ultimate sports pantheon (Jordan, Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Usain Bolt, you know the drill), it also draws attention to the weekend’s main weakness ahead. . The inevitable truth that there is nothing important to play.
In an ideal world, Federer would have loved fighting for his sporting life at a major tournament – just like Serena Williams did when she saved five match points in a tumultuous final against Alja Tomljanovic in the recent US Open. Instead, he pushes his ruined knee through what is effectively a double exposure.
Still, at least Federer’s long goodbye gave the fifth edition of the Laver Cup a focus it had so far lacked. And the low-stakes environment of the O2 Arena provides the perfect setting for a man whose 41-year-old body has finally collapsed. The fact that Federer founded the event himself, back in 2017, suggests he can add “seeing the future” to his long list of accomplishments.
Behind the scenes, the Laver Cup social media team revels in the presence of the so-called Big Four, who combine for the first time in the European team. Before the tournament even started, we’ve seen them share a pitch for a double knockabout, pile into the Tower of London for a stylish private dinner, and chat about the local architecture on a walk along the riverbank. south.
“What happened to him?” Murray asks in a short video, staring at The Shard’s pointy toe. “It’s like that. It’s like broken glass,” Federer replies. Even now that these multi-millionaires have reached their mid-thirties, he still feels like a dad. As if to underline the point, Novak Djokovic, the eternal younger brother, then shouts happily from the touchline: “Andy, he’s giving you lessons about London!”
Murray is in excellent company here. Ten years ago, he earned his place among the big boys of the majors, reaching the semi-finals at least nine times in the space of ten slams. Now he’s been left far in the rearview mirror by the other three, as they amass the bewildering combined tally of 63 major titles.
But Federer still clearly sees Murray as a worthy member of the gang. That’s how he secured the support slot on Friday night, playing singles at 7pm against Australia’s Alex de Minaur before the start of the evening’s main event.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Murray praised Federer for the generally meticulous scripting of his own outing. “The way Roger went about it,” Murray said, “he seems to do a lot of things well. That’s also something we can all learn from.
“There are a lot of emotions among all the players,” Murray added. “I imagine for Roger it will be incredibly difficult, but for a lot of players it will be difficult. Especially [because] we are all proud and excited to be part of this team and to be here for its last game. It just seems like that’s how he’ll end his career.
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