Tennis titans Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray on Thursday paid tribute to Roger Federer who is set to play the final game of his illustrious career during the Laver Cup tournament in London.
Federer, 41, who has been plagued by knee injuries over the past three years, announced his retirement last Thursday.
The Swiss said the three-day event at the 02 Arena in south-east London would be his last competitive outing.
Assembled in the same room, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray recounted their on-court clashes with Federer and their memories of an opponent who has been described as the greatest player of all time.
Murray said the 2008 Wimbledon final between Federer and Nadal was one of the rare times he had gone in person to watch his rivals play.
Djokovic, 35, recalled his first Grand Slam final against Federer at the US Open in New York in 2007. “I lost,” said the Serb. “It was a remarkable experience but I left with the feeling that I belonged among such players.”
That was their sixth meeting. And of the 44 that followed, Djokovic has won 26 times to finish with a better head-to-head record over the Swiss maestro.
“It’s a huge excitement to be playing on the same team together,” said Djokovic.
“Along with Rafa [Nadal], he has contributed to me becoming the player that I am. It’s a sad day for tennis but Roger’s legacy will live forever.”
Federer has been scheduled to play his final game in the doubles on Friday night with Nadal for Team Europe against Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe who will be representing Team World.
“It will be a different kind of pressure,” said Nadal. “After all the amazing things we shared on and off the court. To be part of this historic moment is going to be something amazing and unforgettable.”
Tiafoe, who reached the semi-finals of the US Open two weeks ago, said he was relishing the challenge.
“I’m certainly not going to be holding anything back,” added the 24-year-old American. “It will exciting to play these two up and coming players.”
Quips aside, Team World is looking for its first overall win in the fifth edition of the tournament.
“If I were playing,” said Team World skipper John McEnroe, “I’d be super pumped up. I’d be saying enough is enough. If you look at the rankings, we’re the underdogs … that goes without saying and it has been that way since the first tournament in 2017. And that should be the inspiration.
“There’s a lot of things happening in Team Europe and I think we have a better idea of where we’re at. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy.”
During the first day of play on Friday, each victory from the four matches is worth one point. On Saturday, two points are awarded for a win and three points on Sunday.
The first squad to 13 points claims the crown. However, if the points are tied at 12:12 at the end of all matches, a decider will be played on Sunday to determine the winner.
“This format is suitable for us,” added McEnroe. “There’s no reason why we can’t or shouldn’t win this.”