The Emotions Of Federer's Final Match
It was an unforgettable scene in the early minutes of Saturday morning in London at the Laver Cup. Team Europe and Team World stood on court inside The O2 with mournful eyes, some players’ flowing with tears. Roger Federer had just played the final ATP Tour match of his career.
But soon those sad looks turned to smiles, as all the stars lifted Federer on their shoulders, celebrating the 41-year-old. Only four players were on court for the match — Federer, Rafael Nadal, Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe — but everyone inside the arena felt part of it.
Matteo Berrettini struggled to sleep, but he had the duty of playing in Saturday’s first match for Team Europe.
“One of the reasons why I couldn't sleep is, like, Roger was crying on my shoulder. Like what did I do to deserve this, you know?” Berrettini wondered. “I kept reminding myself that I had to be focussed in the match, otherwise my feelings, emotions, would be too much to handle.”
The Italian is one of the best players in the world, having qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals twice. Part of the reason he has climbed to his level is the motivation of growing up watching Federer.
“Just really happy to be here and honoured to represent Team Europe instead of him in singles. Having the chances to live what we lived yesterday is something that's going to be stuck in my heart and my brain forever,” Berrettini said. “I’m not lying when I say that I'm here because of him. Like he was really the one that I was looking up to. He was the one that I was supporting, cheering for him.
“I was getting upset, I remember crying after he lost the finals in 2009 in Australia because he was crying. So for me, living these moments is something really that means everything. So it was tough, tough to sleep.”
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It was not any easier Friday evening for the men Federer and Nadal faced in doubles. Both Sock and Tiafoe have praised Federer plenty throughout the week, and they had to stand across the net from him in his final match. The Team World duo triumphed in a Match Tie-break.
“It's tough, I think. While playing, it felt like a match,” Sock said. “[The magnitude] settled in while we were all bawling our eyes out there afterwards, but during the match, felt like a competitive match.
“I’ve got the opportunity to play him a few times in Laver Cup, and that team before, so brought back some memories of that, which was exciting. Foe and I played him together for the first time, trying to bring crazy energy. Obviously had 99.9 per cent of the crowd against us. But it was super fun to just be a part of that match. I think we are going to be forever grateful to be a part of the GOAT's final match.
“But I don't think it settled in until after. When I hit that last shot, and realised it was over, it was, like, kind of went numb.”
Tiafoe quickly added: “Empty feeling.”
Federer certainly felt the emotions of those around him.
“I guess looking around and seeing how everybody got emotional, obviously it's even better, or even worse, I'm not sure what to say,” Federer said. “That's what I will remember, is the faces I saw emotional.”