Swiss great Roger Federer insists he will end his career this week with no regrets even though his record of 20 Grand Slam titles was overhauled by Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
The 41-year-old will play competitively for the last time at this week’s Laver Cup, bowing out in Team Europe alongside Nadal, Djokovic and Britain’s Andy Murray -- his three fiercest rivals during his glittering 24-year career.
But for Nadal, who beat Federer in six Grand Slam finals including four French Opens, and Djokovic, who got the better of him in four including at Wimbledon in 2019 when Federer had match points, the Swiss would have been untouchable.
Murray also denied Federer the Olympic singles gold, beating him in the 2012 final.
But while those rivalries delivered tough moments, Federer says he was fortunate to have experienced them during an unprecedented golden era for men’s tennis.
“I never really wanted those rivalries you know. I wish I would have just went off and won everything forever,” Federer told Reuters at London’s O2 Arena which is hosting the team event between Europe and the Rest of the World.
“But now, looking back I couldn’t be happier that we had these incredible matches with Andy. They were tough, we had some brutal matches, heated moments as well, and then we are today really cool with one another.
“Same with Novak, great matches, a lot happened but again we’re on the same team super happy to think to be together here. Rafa of course the same thing. I’m very fortunate to be part of that group and then there was also Stan Wawrinka, you know and (Juan Martin Del Potro) Del Po and others in the beginning.”
Asked who was his toughest rival, Federer picked Nadal.
“Just with his lefty silly spin to my backhand has been a challenge for me to say the least,” Federer said.
While the debate over the greatest male player of all time will continue long after Federer hangs up his rackets, in terms of the elegance of his shot-making and his balletic movement, many regard the Swiss as peerless.
Asked what makes him most proud, however, Federer picked his longevity and consistency.
“I was famous for being quite erratic at the beginning of my career,” said Federer, who reached at least the semi-finals of 23 consecutive Grand Slams between 2004 and 2010 and spent a record 237 consecutive weeks as world number one.
“Famous for being not so consistent, so to become one of the most consistent players ever is quite a shock to me.
“Looking back that has a special meaning to me because I always looked to the Michael Schumachers, Tiger Woods, all the other guys that stayed for so long at the top that I didn’t understand how they did it. Next thing, you’re part of that group, and it’s been a great feeling.
“I’m very happy to be able to win another five slams after (breaking Pete Sampras’s record of 14). For me it was incredible. Then I made it to over 100 titles.
“I don’t need all the records to be happy, I tell you that.”
Asked if the losses still hurt, Federer said the memories of the victories were stronger.
“I’m happy I don’t have flashbacks at tough moments in my career. I see more the happiness, me with a trophy, me winning, and I’m happy that my brain allows me to think this way,” he said.