That was magical.
Although the dream combination of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal fell agonisingly short against Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock with the latter pair prevailing 4-6 7-6(2), 11-9, tonight belonged exclusively to Roger Federer.
The crowd was full of adoration yet also on edge with every shot. You’ve never heard anything like it.
Even when he did, in their eyes, Federer could do no wrong.
There may never be a more loving crowd again.
In the lead into tonight, Federer had said he’d hoped to play at an “acceptable level” in his final match. However, in truth, he did much more than that.
The serve still found the spot and his volleys were sharp for the most part. Sure, there was some rust and even a few nerves. But he gave us more than we deserved. Once again, we fans leave in his debt.
After the match, as Jim Courier interviewed Roger one last time, the Swiss Maestro broke down in tears as he thanked his family, his team, his friends, his rivals, and his fans.
Federer’s leaking eyes were not alone. Rafael Nadal succumbed to tears. So did Roger’s parents as did the majority of the crowd. It was a beautiful moment to witness such an outpouring of thanks and gratitude.
Speaking post-match, Federer spoke of how he has come to accept and appreciate his retirement despite first being overwhelmed with emotions.
“For me, I didn’t have fireworks in my head, watching my career all flashing by. This was weeks ago… there I felt pain. Tonight, it was all happiness.”
“I was able to remind myself on the court how wonderful this is. This is not the end, end, you know, life goes on. I’m healthy and I’m happy and my body feels great. This is just a moment in time, you know. It was always supposed to be like this… I was able to say everything I wanted.”
“Weeks ago, for a fact, I was so scared of this moment.”
From Team World’s perspective, tonight may prove decisive for their Laver Cup hopes. In each Laver Cup to date, Team Europe has dominated the tight contests and kept Team World at bay.
However, on day 1 at this year’s Laver Cup, Team World picked up two out of three three-set matches.
Team World and Team Europe will now enter day two on level pegging at 2-2. In previous years they’ve always been chasing a deficit on days two and three.
As captain John McEnroe had said in the pre-tournament press conference: "enough is enough".
Earlier in the night, Australian Alex de Minaur earned his first points for Team World as he defeated a spirited Andy Murray and his ferocious home crowd 5-7, 6-3, 10-7 to close the gap to 2-1.
The Demon found himself up a break at 3-1 in the first set but was unable to capitalise as the pair scrapped out an eighty-minute set with both players digging in on their opponent's service games and refusing to give away cheap points. This was a war of attrition.
On a change of ends during the first set, Novak Djokovic had encouraged Murray to focus more on his own game as the Australian was unable to produce the quality of shot to match the Scotsman. While true, as the match wore on, de Minaur was eventually able to wear down his Team Europe opponent using the drop shot to great effect as the match ticked over 2 hours and ten minutes before the third set tiebreaker had commenced.
Speaking after the match, Team World vice-captain Patrick McEnroe was glowing in his endorsement of the young Australian’s ability to grind out the win and get Team World on the board.
“We were lucky we had Alex out there, because, you know, obviously playing against Andy, who is just such a great competitor himself, but to have Alex who is as good of a competitor, which saying a lot. He pulled through for us big time.”
The 23-year-old Sydney-sider also spoke of his excitement for this match and his trademark willingness to try to outlast his opponent no matter the cost.
“Yeah, it was definitely something. A lot of nerves, a lot of, you know, excitement. You know, I just wanted to do what I can to get a point for Team World. That's what I tried to do. I knew it was never going to be easy. It was always going to be a battle”, de Minaur said.
“You know, I'm ready for that. I'm ready to go for as long as it takes. If today he comes out and he beats me because he plays too good, I just shake his hand, and nothing else I can do.
“But I know I'm always going to leave it out there, going to give it 150%. I was able to get a great win today in front of a packed crowd, which was definitely a great atmosphere.”