Both Lleyton Hewitt and Richard Gasquet used their Davis Cup media readiness on Thursday to pay tribute to Roger Federer after announcing his retirement on social media.
Federer, 41, won his first Grand Slam in 2003 at Wimbledon, and in that tournament Hewitt was the reigning champion after becoming the youngest world number one in 2001.
They came in the same era, with Federer quickly overtaking the Australian as the sport’s main attraction, and would keep that cloak for over a decade as he and Rafael Nadal began their legendary rivalry.
Reflecting on the time they spent together on tour, Hewitt called him “almost unbeatable” as he shared his admiration.
“Yes, it was my time, I guess,” he said. “We were the same age, we grew up together in the youth teams.
“I knew Roger very well and probably saw him as slightly different from everyone else, because we grew up together. But he was the greatest of that time.
“You know, of course now there are a couple of other guys who are really raising their hand, but it got clear easily from the Grand Slam point of view and it’s really just his win-loss ratio. [in the] mid-2000s, it was almost unbeatable.
“It was basically just Rafa [Nadal] that could take it, especially on clay. But above all he was a great ambassador of our sport.
“I’ve always said you don’t want to push those guys out of the game too soon.
“Everyone wants to talk about retirement. When are they retiring? You want to hold on to those big boys. They have done so many special things for our sport.
“But yes, of course, the body – you get to my age and age now, and it’s not easy. He’s done everything in sport you could ever dream of.”
In his own interview, Gasquet shared the sentiment, declaring “there is only one Roger Federer”.
“It’s a big shock – he’s a legend of the game,” he said. “It’s not easy for anyone, I know it will be a great thing at the Laver Cup. I’m sure it will be wonderful there.
“It’s a tough defeat for tennis. After that it will be different. It’s still tennis, but it won’t be the same without Federer.
“I was 1-0 up against him [head-to-head], I won in Monte Carlo, but after that I lost maybe 20 times. I’m not the only one obviously, it was incredible when I got to deal with it.
“He is a legend of the game, everyone knows. The technique, the charisma, everything was crazy. There is only one Roger Federer.”