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Roger Federer has revealed how he cried when the searing realization pushed him that he would never win Wimbledon again.
The moment did not come this summer, but as far back as the run-up to the championships in 2021.
The 41-year-old Swiss, who emotionally says goodbye to top tennis at the Laver Cup, had a painful collision with reality in Germany, where he played a preparatory tournament on grass.
Tears began to flow when he was defeated in the second round by Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in Halle.
Roger Federer has revealed he knew his Wimbledon ambitions were over for the 2021 tournament
“What I do remember is that when I lost to Felix, I cried after the game and I knew I wasn’t going to win Wimbledon,” he said. “So I was realistic about my chances there. Once you’re in the moment, you try to convince yourself at all costs, but I knew it was going to be very, very difficult.”
This was the precursor to his uneasy departure from the All England Club, where he lost his last ever set 6-0 to Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz at Center Court. However, Federer chooses to put a positive spin on that four-set quarterfinal defeat.
“I thought it was a great result, given the conditions I was under with my knee. The end of that game was one of the worst moments of my career because I felt really terrible.
“It was over, the knee was gone, and when I knew I had to confront the media right after that in a short amount of time, it was really difficult. But you know you can’t turn back time and say, ‘Oh, we should have changed this.’
Ultimately, his 41-year-old knee can no longer withstand the full rigors of intense competition, which is why he retires Friday night with a doubles game alongside his old rival Rafael Nadal.
Federer takes time for his career after a final double appearance alongside longtime rival Rafael Nadal
He admits that he has sometimes wondered whether he should have opted for surgery on his right knee at all.
“Maybe what could have happened was that I had played on and it would have exploded at some point. Which would have been much worse. Who knows?
“I’ve always said it’s the beginning of the end once you’ve had surgery. Obviously the last three years have been pretty tough in terms of those things. I want to be healthy for life. So it was well worth it.’
One of the things he looks forward to is finally being able to take part in a family ski vacation, something he has always denied himself due to the risks of injury.
Stranded at 20, Federer leaves the race behind to see who can take the most Grand Slam titles in the men’s race, with Nadal at 22 and Novak Djokovic at 21 en route to 2023.
Interestingly, he challenges the orthodoxy that these kinds of agreements will never be threatened again. The main reason for that belief is that the surfaces used in tennis are more universal than they were, tending to the slow side, which favors the basic game.
“We never talked about twenty with me. We were always talking about maybe turning 15,” he said. “I believe more than ever that you can dominate on all surfaces because they all play the same. There are no more dangerous serve and volley guys on fast surfaces.
Federer is currently third in the all-time Grand Slam men’s singles leaders with 20 wins
“I did a clinic here (at the O2 Arena) and I asked how the court is doing. “Oh, it looks so slow.” There you go, welcome to my world. Everything is slow these days. Inside is not what it used to be. It wasn’t like when it was lightning fast.
“So that’s why I think in the future there will be more players with, I would say, more than five Slams. Because once you’re on a roll, you can stay on a roll. I do believe that somehow there will be a few players with more than 20 Slams, I’m sure of that.”
Federer remains optimistic about what’s to come for the game, provided players don’t overestimate themselves.
“It’s a grueling, tough sport. No doubt about that. I was really happy with what I saw at the US Open, some great games.
“Tennis always creates a beautiful storyline when you dig deeper into the personalities of the players. I watched (Frances) Tiafoe and (Carlos) Alcaraz in New York.
“I really enjoyed what I saw and I’m sure the future looks bright for the game.”