Federer fans mourn the exit of the ‘gentleman of tennis’

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Roger Federer. (Photo by John Berry/Getty Images)

“The gentleman of tennis.” “A tennis god.” Roger Federer is getting ready to leave the stage for the last time and fans can’t stand to see him go.

The Swiss maestro, 41, will play his last match when he teams up with longtime rival Rafael Nadal for a doubles match at the Laver Cup in London on Friday.

As so often in his illustrious career, which spans almost a quarter of a century, he is once again the main attraction at the O2 Arena, where Team Europe will take on Team World.

Thousands of paying fans even lined up to watch Thursday’s training sessions on the eve of the three-day tournament.

Judith Flavel, 68, retired, wore a red T-shirt with a cross made up of Federer’s name in white, echoing the Swiss flag.

“He’s the best,” she said. “I know the argument for who is the best of all time and it can be any of the three (Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic), depending on what criteria you use, but for me it’s the gentleman of tennis.

“Nadal is close, but his sportsmanship (from Federer), his work ethic – I like everything about him.

“They’ve been talking about his retirement for 10 years. It’s never the right time but it had to happen sooner or later.”

Naia Martin, 27, who works in human relations in London, stood in line in a green Federer cap, signaling her allegiance to the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

“I kind of dreaded that day,” she said. “It sounds very serious but it’s true. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play.

“Not just his tennis, but the way he carries himself on tour. He’s a real gentleman. Watching him at Wimbledon is amazing. He’s a perfect fit for that place, the prestige.

“I think the dominance he had was great. Obviously we saw dominance from other players as well, but for me no one will compare and it will be difficult to find someone I support that much.”

Salma Mashhour, 30, an Egyptian PhD student who lives in London, bought tickets for the practice as soon as they became available.

“We bought the tickets the same day at the very first time they were released, in March, because they said Federer would be there, so it was always about him,” she said. declared.

“It’s heartbreaking that he’s retiring but I think it’s the right decision because when you’re used to being on top it’s hard to have so many injuries and see the younger generations beat you. .”

For Jennie Douglas, 50, a retired teacher from St Albans, near London, Federer is a “god of tennis”.

“He’s really handsome and he’s a handsome player,” she said. “He’s so elegant to look at and he’s given so much to the game over the years in terms of technique but also sportsmanship.

“I will be devastated (when he retires). I was really disappointed that he hasn’t been to Wimbledon this year and to think it’s his last tournament is really sad. I hope we see more of him. in the comments box.”

Even fans of Federer’s rivals have expressed their admiration for a player who turned professional in 1998 but recently suffered a knee injury.

Retired Cathy Geary, 56, an avowed Nadal fan, had never seen Federer play before but said it was “better late than never”.

“His game looks so easy, he’s so elegant and he’s a real gentleman,” she said. “It’s just nice to see him playing tennis. I’m going to miss him. He is definitely one of the greatest ever.”

One of the youngest fans in the queue in London was Alex Pardoe, who plays competitive tennis.

The nine-year-old boy, who lives in Basingstoke, south-west London, stood in line with his mother, wearing a red Federer cap.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I like the way he played and I was inspired by him. It’s sad that he’s retiring but he was, in my opinion, one of the best players.”

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