Editor’s Note: After two decades at the pinnacle of men’s tennis, Roger Federer has announced his retirement from the sport—bidding a warm and emotional farewell on social media. “I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years,” he writes. “Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.” His last professional match will be next weekend in London at the Laver Cup, the five-year-old team tennis competition between Europe and the U.S. that Federer helped create. In a must-see swan song, he’ll (hopefully) play doubles again with his longtime rival and friend Rafael Nadal on Friday night. Vogue’s global editorial director, Anna Wintour, who has been friends with Federer for years, pays tribute to an extraordinary champion.
In public life, as in tennis, losses come in clusters. Like most people with connections to the United Kingdom, I have spent the past days feeling the loss of Queen Elizabeth II, who reigned for as long as I can remember. I spent much of this summer mourning the loss from the court of a queen in another sense, Serena Williams: an athlete who, along with her sister, Venus, broke barriers, raised standards, and enlarged not just the soul of women’s tennis but its heart.
When my friend and hero Roger Federer told me that he, too, was retiring from professional tennis, my own heart skipped a beat. There was the sadness of knowing that I wouldn’t again have the thrill of turning on the television—or rushing to London, to Paris, to Melbourne, to all the places I’ve watched Roger play—and see him do the impossible. But there was also a deep gratitude for all that he gave us, on the court and off, over so many years. There is not a player who deserves retirement more, or whose absence on the court we will feel more acutely.
Like many people, I first became aware of Roger when he was a long-haired youth making waves in Houston at the 2003 Tennis Masters Cup. You could tell he was special. There was that incredible speed. There was the unreal work close to the net. And there was the way he made it all look devastatingly easy. But there was also, just as importantly, a kindness and a grace—one might even say a dignity—in the way he carried himself on the court and off. Federer fans, one finds, are different from the usual sports fans. They don’t just swarm to him; they rise to him, and I think his sense of decency has lots to do with that. But, then, I speak with a bias of my own, I suppose: By this point, I had become an avid Federer fan myself.