A tearful Roger Federer said goodbye to a 25-year career with a Laver Cup loss in a doubles match that lasted past midnight in London.
Federer teamed up with his old rival Rafael Nadal against American duo Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock as Team Europe took on Team World at the O2 Arena.
After winning the first set, the Swiss and Spaniard faced a spirited comeback from Tiafoe and Sock, who won a second set tie break before also securing the match tie break to seal victory 4-6 7-6 ( 7). -2) 11-9.
There was a great atmosphere in London on Friday for the fifth edition of the three-day competition.
Federer, 41, had not played a match since Hubert Hurkacz knocked him out of Wimbledon in the quarter-finals last year due to a knee injury.
There were huge cheers as Federer and Nadal entered the court and loud roars for the Swiss great as he found his first winner.
There was a sensational moment in the first set when Federer appeared to have won a point after his shot hit the top of the net and bounced off, only for a replay to show that the ball had somehow entered through a small hole. between the net and the post, which means that the team from Europe lost the point, although the ball passing through that gap is highly unlikely.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were among Federer and Nadal’s teammates to offer some tactical insight between games, with the legendary duo having to save a first break point of the match before the Spaniard held on to put them 5-4 up. .
It was two of the all-time greats who took a tight first set when Sock volleyed into the net, prompting World Team captain John McEnroe to tell his doubles partner that they appeared to be “stuck.” in the ruckus.”
A determined Team World managed to level it after a back-and-forth second set ended in a tie-break, with Tiafoe and Sock winning with their superior power and pace.
That led to a dramatic match-deciding tie-break, with every point keeping fans holding their breath, including Federer’s trademark magic at 6-7 when he deflected a Sock shot down the court for a winner that pleased everyone. the crowd.
It seemed the dream script was being followed when Federer served on match point for him and Nadal, but the former could only hit one shot into the net, before Sock and Tiafoe won the next two points to secure victory for Team. World.
Then there were hugs for everyone as tribute was paid to the 20-time Grand Slam winner at the end of a phenomenal career.
Earlier in the day, Casper Ruud drew first blood for Team Europe, beating Sock 6-4, 5-7, 10-7, before Stefanos Tsitsipas doubled his lead with a resounding 6-2 loss, 6-1 over Diego Schwartzman.
There was drama after the first set of that second singles match when a protester, wearing an “END UK PRIVATE JETS” T-shirt, set his arm on fire on the pitch before being escorted away by security.
Alex de Minaur then put Team World on the board with a 5-7, 6-3, 10-7 win over local favorite Murray before the nightly main event under the lights.