Roger Federer – His Five Most Emotional Moments
Roger Federer was famously cool and collected on court throughout his illustrious career, but at times we saw the true emotion of what it all mean to him shine through.
Whether with an unexpected victory of heartbreaking defeat, the 20-time Slam champion was not afraid to be vulnerable in the greatest and toughest times. In honour of a spell-binding and deeply human career, Tennishead looks back at the legend’s most emotional career moments.
2003 – Potential Fulfilled – Federer gets over the Slam line
Aged 16 in 1998 Federer owned the field to win the Wimbledon boys’ singles without dropping a set, adding the doubles for good measure. Three years on and the young Swiss faced his idol and the master of Centre Court, Pete Sampras, upsetting the seven-time champ to end his streak of titles at four.
However, after that breakthrough moment Federer struggled to remain consistent at the highest level. failing to make it past the fourth round at the next seven Majors. Come Wimbledon 2003, the now 21-year-old was seeded fourth and hoping to put a disappointing first round loss from 2002 behind him.
And boy did he do that, reaching the final with the loss of just one set to face Australian Mark Philippoussis for the title. Federer played beyond belief in the semi-finals and final in particular, sealing the championship 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 7-6 (7-3).
“I never thought it possible, to win a Grand Slam,” he told Sue Barker while holding the trophy, little did he know how many would follow. Barker asked what it meant to have so much support from those back home in Switzerland, at which point the waterworks began.
2009 – Pipped at the Post – Another defeat to his biggest rival
As we know, Federer went on to dominate the tour soon after his maiden Wimbledon triumph. He topped the ATP rankings for more than four years from February 2004 to August 2008, winning 12 more Slams on top of his first.
But in that time along came a certain Rafael Nadal, a man who would prove to be Federer’s most significant rival for years to come. While initially the Spaniard only denied Federer Slams at Roland Garros, 2008 saw a turning of the tide.
Nadal defeated Federer in an epic Wimbledon 2008 final to end the Swiss’ title streak at five, before taking the number one spot from him following the Beijing Olympics. Coming to the Australian Open, Federer sat on 13 Slams, one short of the men’s record 14 held by Sampras. He and Nadal met for the seventh time in a Slam final, and as had been the case in the previous two battles, Nadal came out on top, defeating Federer in five sets.
The three-time champion struggled to compose himself during the trophy ceremony as the disappointment of the moment sank in.
2009 – Curbing a Curse – Federer finally triumphs in Paris
Despite the heartbreak of Melbourne, Federer did at least have previous titles Down Under, plus five trophies each at Wimbledon and the US Open. But the French Open remained unreachable for the maestro, losing in the final three years in a row to Nadal from 2006 to 2008. That 2008 defeat was particularly chastening, falling 6-1. 6-3, 6-0 while struggling with mononucleosis.
Entering Paris in 2009, you would not fault Federer for assuming a similar fate would await him there as Nadal pushed for fifth consecutive title. But in the fourth round the unthinkable happened as Nadal lost in four sets to Swede Robin Soderling. After recovering from two sets to love down against Tommy Haas in his own fourth round match, Federer met Soderling in the final, his best chance yet to snatch the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
And he seized that opportunity with both hands, sinking to his knees in tears after winning 6-1, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4. With the victory he completed the Career Grand Slam, becoming the first man to do so since Andre Agassi 10 years earlier. The significance of that moment was punctuated by Federer receiving the trophy from Agassi himself.
2017 – An Unexpected Triumph – Federer ends his Major drought
After claiming three more Slams, the last of which came at Wimbledon 2012, Federer suffered a lack of Major titles he had never contended with before. He reached three finals across four seasons from 2013 to 2016, losing all of them to Novak Djokovic. After falling in the semi-finals of Wimbledon 2016 the now 34-year-old took the rest of the season off to continue recovery from a knee surgery he underwent at the start of the year.
Returning to Melbourne to kick off his 2017 season, few would have expected much from the ageing great, with some believing he would never win another Slam. During his time away Federer dropped outside the top 10 for the first time in 14 years, and was seeded 17th at the Australian Open.
However, both he and rival Nadal defied the odds to reach the final for their 10th meeting in a Slam final and first since the 2011 French Open. Another classic tussle ensued before Federer won 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to land his fifth Australian Open title and 18th Major overall. the disbelief shone through after championship point as the 35-year-old claimed his first Slam for more than four years.
“I don’t think either one of us believed we’d be in the finals of Australia when we saw each other at your Academy four or five months ago,” he admitted in front of the Rod Laver Arena crowd.
2022 – A Final Farewell – Tears flow in London
After defying the odds in Melbourne the Swiss went on to land two more Major crowns at Wimbledon and again in Australia, and peaking again at world number one at nearly 37 years old. After a tough-to-swallow loss to Djokovic in the final of Wimbledon 2019, Federer did not reach another final at the highest level, making his last Slam appearance at Wimbledon 2021 before taking time off with injury.
At that time nobody was sure it would be his last, as fans held out that Federer could return from surgery to compete again despite turning 40. Wimbledon 2022 came and went and Federer turned 41 in August before the inevitable was announced, Federer would retire. He chose the Laver Cup as his final event, with his last match being a doubles rubber for Team Europe alongside his greatest competitor, none other than Nadal.
Though the pair lost, the match was not what mattered. Instead, the heartfelt emotion of the moments immediately after is what will stay with fans of the great forever. Both he and Nadal wept at the close of Federer’s career, a monumental chapter in the lives of each man.
“I’m happy, I’m not sad, it feels great to be here,” Federer told the O2 Arena crowd of his final moments as a professional tennis player.
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