Roger Federer says emotional farewell amid tears and cheers after loss to US duo

London, UK - There were tears and cheers at the Laver Cup in London as tennis icon Roger Federer brought his professional career to an end with defeat in the doubles tournament alongside his great rival and friend Rafael Nadal.

Roger Federer was celebrated by players and fans as he brought down the curtain on a legendary career.
Roger Federer was celebrated by players and fans as he brought down the curtain on a legendary career.  © REUTERS

The 20-time grand-slam champion announced last week he would bow out from competitive tennis with one final match at the Ryder Cup-style competition, which was his brainchild.

In the end, the city that hosted some of Federer's greatest triumphs was also where the Swiss superstar's journey came to an end.

Team World duo Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe played the pantomime villains with a 4-6, 7-6 (2), 11-9 victory at the O2 arena, but that didn't stop the occasion from being a celebration for the 41-year-old.

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Federer enjoyed a lengthy hug with old sparring partner Nadal, who was also later in tears during Ellie Goulding's performance, in a clip that quickly went viral. There was time for one final standing ovation by a sold-out crowd, despite the clock being well beyond midnight.

"We'll get through this somehow," Federer said on-court.

"Look, it has been a wonderful day. I told the guys I'm happy, I'm not sad. It feels great to be here and I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time."

"Everything was the last time. Funny enough with all the matches, being with the guys and having family and friends, I didn't feel the stress so much even if I felt something would go during the match. I am so glad I made it through and the match was great. I couldn't be happier."

"It has been a perfect journey and I would do it all over again..."

Federer thanks Mirka for unconditional support

Federer and his great rival Nadal shared an incredibly touching moment at the end of the match.
Federer and his great rival Nadal shared an incredibly touching moment at the end of the match.  © Action Images via Reuters

Federer had to fight back the tears before he thanked wife Mirka, who has watched him battle through a succession of knee operations before he finally admitted defeat in his pursuit to come back last week.

He added: "Thank you everybody. I've had so many people cheer me on and you guys here tonight mean the world."

"My wife has been so supportive... She could have stopped me a long, long time ago but she didn't. She kept me going and allowed me to play, so thank you. She is amazing."

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A round of applause greeted his entrance onto the court for this last dance. It felt fitting for the Switzerland ace, wearing his white headband, to sign off in London, the home of many of his most famous wins, including a memorable first major at Wimbledon in 2003 and then a record 15th grand slam six years later that moved him ahead of old rival, US legend Pete Sampras.

In keeping with this unique situation, Novak Djokovic was also on hand to offer words of wisdom when required and was one of the most enthusiastically celebrating any point won by the partnership dubbed Fedal.

But Sock and Tiafoe had warned they were not there to make up the numbers, and they recovered after losing the first set to clinch the second set and force a tie-break decider.

While the Americans would eventually claim victory after two hours and 14 minutes, they did so only after a handful of lasts for Federer, who sent down a 116mph ace and a delightful deft drop shot that proved the final winner of an era-defining athlete's simply extraordinary career.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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