Novak Djokovic paid tribute to Roger Federer’s “integrity and balance” following the announcement of his imminent retirement.
Federer revealed on Thursday that he will be calling the time of his professional career at the age of 41 after next week’s Laver Cup in London.
Djokovic will also be part of Team Europe at the O2, with the Serbian big four, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray reuniting for the last time.
Federer and Djokovic met 50 times between 2006 and 2020, including in five Grand Slam finals, and Djokovic wrote on Instagram: “Roger it’s hard to see this day and put into words everything we’ve shared together in this sport .
“Over a decade of incredible moments and battles to rethink. Your career has set the tone for what it means to achieve excellence and lead with integrity and balance.
“It is an honor to meet you on and off the pitch and for many more years to come. I know this new chapter will contain amazing things for you, Mirka, the kids, all your loved ones and Roger fans still have a lot to look forward to.
“From our family to yours, we wish you much joy, health and prosperity in the future. I’m looking forward to celebrating your achievements and seeing you in London. “
Serena Williams welcomed Federer into the “retirement club”, with the two greats ending their careers within a couple of weeks of each other.
Williams, who took leave of emotional scenes at the US Open, wrote on Instagram that she was among the “millions and millions” of people Federer inspired during his 24-year career.
He said, “I wanted to find the perfect way to say it, as you silenced this game so eloquently – perfectly done, just like your career.
“I have always admired you and I have admired you. Our paths have always been so similar, so similar. You have inspired countless millions and millions of people – myself included – and we will never forget that.
“I applaud you and look forward to everything you do in the future. Welcome to the retirees club. And thank you for being you ”.
Venus Williams, still playing at the age of 42, said on Instagram: “The greatest ever. I already miss you.”
Federer made the announcement via a letter posted on social media, accepting defeat in an attempt to recover from a third knee operation in 18 months.
“As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgery,” he said. “I worked hard to get back to full competitive form.
“But I also know the capabilities and limitations of my body and lately its message has been clear to me. I’m 41 years old. I’ve played over 1,500 games in 24 years.
“Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever imagined, and now I have to recognize when it’s time to end my competitive career.”
Concluding the letter, Federer said: “I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart, to all those around the world who have contributed to making the dreams of a young Swiss dancer come true.
“Finally, to the game of tennis: I love you and I will never leave you”.
The tributes came from all over the sporting world and beyond, which continued on Friday.
Nick Kyrgios wrote on Instagram: “No one will ever play the game like you. Have fun @rogerfederer …… it was an honor.”
Coco Gauff added: “Thank you @rogerfederer for improving the game in so many ways on and off the pitch.
“Thanks for all the advice you have given me over the years. Thanks for being the best model for so many. Thanks for everything.”
Briton Dan Evans has become a favorite training partner for Federer in his later years.
The 32-year-old said: “He and his team are great to me. We trained a lot of times. I think for two and a half weeks once in Dubai, every day. It was great. Roger was cool.
“I think the biggest compliment I can give him is that he was a very, very normal, down to earth person. He treated me, and he treats everyone, just like the normal guy on the street with his partner.
“Obviously a great practice partner to practice with. I think we will miss him. He greeted everyone on tour. Obviously to be as good as he was, obviously he wasn’t kind to everyone, I’m sure, but an extraordinary competitor.
“We will miss him very much, I think. It will be different for older kids not to have him around. It is a pity for the new generations not to see how it has worked ”.
Andre Agassi, who has worked alongside the Swiss star for several years, wrote on Twitter: “Your game and your spirit have taught us how beautiful tennis can be played, @RogerFederer. Every moment you shared has left us all in better shape. Thanks, RF.