Over the past month, two of tennis’ greatest and most iconic competitors have said goodbye – in Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
And while the two legends took different approaches, both went out on their own terms in front of thousands of beloved fans.
The American opted to bow out at her home ‘Slam’ in front of boisterous New York crowds, while the Swiss chose the Laver Cup – a team environment, playing alongside his greatest rival in Nadal.
There is no textbook retirement in any sport, and as we witnessed two historic farewells, it opens the door for players in future to consider alternate domains to conclude their careers.
Firstly, Serena Williams.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion announced her retirement plans three weeks out from the 2022 US Open, stating that the event would be her last as a competitive player.
Taking to Arthur Ashe on Monday and Wednesday night, all eyes were Serena – in what had the potential to be her final singles match.
And yet on both occasions, the six-time US Open champion was victorious and delayed her farewell – still enjoying celebrations and tributes after each match.
But Friday night was the end – the highest rated tennis match in ESPN’S 43-year history with an average of 4.6 million viewers, as Serena fell to Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic.
An epic contest followed by a touching aftermath saw Ajla, Arthur Ashe, America, and fans far and wide pay homage to a sporting legend.
It was truly momentous – Serena uncontrollably emotional on-court as she thanked her parents and sister for everything.
The scenes were made increasingly special by having her home fans present inside the stadium and around Flushing Meadows – along with the millions watching on television – to honour one of the most influential athletes in America’s history.
But the drawback with retiring at a major is that the attention always shifts away in the second week, as other storylines naturally emerge.
And while Serena’s finale drew the most eyeballs, a 19-year-old men’s champion in Carlos Alcaraz stole the tournament headlines.
However, sports fans across the globe were treated to an entire week of tributes, honouring Williams’ remarkable career and legacy in a farewell we won’t forget.
And just as the tennis world had digested Serena’s goodbye, then came Roger Federer.
The 41-year-old going public with his retirement plans just four days after the US Open, telling fans that the Laver Cup would be his last event.
Ticket prices skyrocketed and anticipation soared as the reality dawned on tennis fans that this was the last opportunity to witness a legend compete.
And just like Serena – despite all the other matches taking place in New York and in London – when Roger stepped on court, the rest of the event seemingly held little meaning.
But more so than the American, Federer was able to dictate his farewell – at least to a degree.
Deciding to play one final match. A doubles. Alongside Rafa. With Novak, Andy, and a host of others courtside. On a Friday night at the O2 Arena, in the city where he enjoyed his greatest success.
We knew it was the end no matter the result, so fans could truly savor every point, winner, and emotion.
And despite the match outcome, it was still the “perfect ending” in Federer’s eyes.
The scenes on-court brought up a range of emotions for those watching on.
A mix of adulation and affliction among fans, seeing Federer break down in his speech followed by the heartwarming images of a weeping Rafael Nadal.
The greatest of rivals on the court with the utmost respect for each other off it – a bond unrivalled in modern sport.
As Nadal closes in on his own farewell, Federer’s Laver Cup epilogue may just provide him with some inspiration.
And should the Spaniard follow suit, could we even see the Swiss come out of retirement to salute his great friend and rival? It’s far from out of the question.
While the careers of Serena and Roger were celebrated in glorious fashion, we can only hope that the next major farewell remains a few years away, at least.