This is something I never hoped I would write, but Roger Federer has announced his retirement.
After next week’s Laver Cup in London, one of the greatest sporting careers will draw to a close, and what a glittering one it has been.
20 Grand Slams, 310 weeks at World No.1 and 103 titles.
Yet above the numbers, Federer has transfixed billions of eyeballs on tennis over the past 24 years, leaving many a jaw on the floor with some of his sublime shot making and deft touch.
At his peak, there was nobody quite like him, in fact from Wimbledon 2005 to the Australian Open in 2010, Federer would feature in all but one Grand Slam final.
Everyone rode the waves with him, he wore his heart on his sleeve and he never seemed to take winning for granted even at the height of his powers.
Wind back to the 2006 Australian Open final where it all became too much in front of the adoring Rod Laver Arena crowd as he hoisted his then seventh major trophy, he just couldn’t get the words out even though he was so used to winning at that point in time.
In fact, throughout the entirety of the 2005 and 2006 period, Federer won a staggering 173 matches and lost a measly total of nine.
Of those nine losses, five came to his fierce rival and friend Rafael Nadal, who would thwart Federer at the French Open time and time again as the Swiss Maestro tried so desperately to achieve the Career Slam.
The early days of the Fedal rivalry were dominated by Nadal, with many of the meetings taking place on the Spaniard’s pet surface of clay, but towards the end Federer figured things out winning six of the last seven meetings between the pair.
They met in some absolutely epic finals, Wimbledon in 2008 will go down as one of the greatest matches in history as Nadal ended Federer’s record 237 consecutive week stay as the top ranked player in the world, a record that is likely never to be broken.
There was also the 2017 Australian Open, with both coming back from injury and making the unlikeliest of finals, before putting on a show and delighting the Melbourne Park crowd with a glorious contest in which Federer would prevail in five.
At his peak, there was nobody quite like him, with countless players labelling him almost unplayable in some of the biggest arenas, James Blake can attest to that following the decider of the ATP Finals in 2006.
“There's nothing I could have done. He played too good,” Blake said.
“I've probably run out of adjectives to describe him on the court, to talk about his excellence. He's just unbelievable. Steps it up even more in finals. I definitely think I could have played a little better. But to be perfectly honest, I don't know if it would have mattered today.”
There are even just singular shots that are etched into tennis folklore, such as ‘that’ tweener in the 2009 US Open semifinal against Novak Djokovic, before he replicated it again in the opening round of the 2010 event against Argentina’s Brian Dabul.
There was the around the net shot against Takao Suzuki at the 2005 Australian Open, the drop shot against Berdych in Miami in 2017, the slapping forehand against Nadal in the fifth set of the 2017 Australian Open decider or even the running smash winner he hit past Andy Roddick in Basel back in the early 2000’s.
Looking at Federer’s record is quite staggering, but what some forget is that it could have been more.
There have been some heartbreaking losses, like the aforementioned 2008 Wimbledon title match or the All England Club decider in 2019 and even the US Open in 2009, all of which saw Roger with chances to take the victory.
But those losses are also what drove people to Federer.
He was always so humble and so gracious with barely an ego on show, it made the world fall in love with his personality.
His humility on show even in his retirement announcement, a letter written for social media and a swan song at the Laver Cup next week.
The Swiss star was all about the fans, never letting them down when they came to see him in between the tram lines.
He never retired from a match, not once.
The ease and grace of his game even troubled the previous generation’s greats, most notably 14-time major champion Pete Sampras, who a 19-year-old Federer defeated in a five set epic at Wimbledon in 2001, the only ever meeting between the pair.
The joy he has brought to tennis fans, players and pundits across the world is immeasurable, and the hole he will leave in the tennis world is as big as one could ever imagine.
Yes Nadal and Novak Djokovic may have gone past Federer in the Grand Slam race, but there will only be one man that will sit as the greatest of all time, and that is the Swiss Maestro.
He changed the game of tennis, ended the careers of legends and forged a path for the game going forward.
At the height of his reign, nobody even comes close to the skill and panache of Roger Federer.
This is a sad day for tennis, and for sport, but it is also a time to celebrate one of the most wonderful careers and reflect on what made him such a remarkable player.
Next week, enjoy watching him for the last time and soak it all up because it will be something special.
Thank you Roger, for everything.
Read Roger Federer's retirement note below: