R. Federer and S. Williams retire after legendary careers

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Gianna Galesi

Roger Federer giving his farewell afer his final match at the 2022 Laver Cup

Gianna Galesi, Entertainment Editor

This September, the world bids farewell to two tennis superstars, Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Williams and Federer have earned 23 and 20 Grand Slam titles respectively over the course of their careers. Now with Williams at age 40, and Federer at 41, the two have recently announced their intentions to retire just weeks apart.  

Jon Wertheim, senior writer of Sports Illustrated, tells NPR that given their ages, the retirement of Williams and Federer would come as expected. Nonetheless, watching two of the most iconic players withdraw from their sport has left the public in woeful disbelief. “This is like the Sears Tower and the Empire State Building are both scheduled for demolition within a few weeks of each other,” Wertheim accounts. 

In August, Williams expressed her retirement in Vogue magazine, which honored her coming-of-age journey as a black woman in a historically white sport, as well as her adventures into motherhood. “And I almost did do the impossible: A lot of people don’t realize that I was two months pregnant when I won the Australian Open in 2017,” reveals Williams, “But I’m turning 41 [this September], and something’s got to give.” She played her final match in the third round of the US Open, in a loss to Australia’s Ajla Tomljanović. 

Roger Federer publicized the end of his professional career in a heartwarming social media post on September 15. He thanks his family, friends, coaches, and the many others who have supported him along his path to success. “Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt,” says Federer, “and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career.” 

He has endured several injuries and surgeries over the past few years. Although he has worked hard to return to competitive form, he has chosen to recognize and respect his body’s limitations. Federer spent his last week as a professional player competing in the Laver Cup in London. The tournament brought together old rivals Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray, to play all together for the Swiss team. “The quartet have won 66 Grand Slam titles and 329 tournaments among them, and played out numerous Grand Slam finals,” reports ESPN. “I am super excited to have them on our team, my team and not having to play against them in my last match,” voiced Federer. Partnered with Nadal, Federer played an entertaining doubles match that marked the end of his career, ultimately losing to American partners Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe. 

Both Williams and Federer have redefined the sport of tennis. Williams and her sister, fellow tennis player Venus, have been forced to navigate scrutiny as black women in such a white dominated industry. From Venus getting penalized for her hair beads falling out during a match in 1999, to Serena’s pregnancy with husband Alexis Ohanian, who is white, the family has been subject to several racist criticisms. 

Yet amid the undeniable presence of racism, sexism, and classism, “they [battled] that with such grace,” denotes Akilah Carter-Francique, dean of Benedict College’s School of Education, Health and Human Services. Because the sisters became cultural icons as well as star athletes, Carter-Francique explains that “their appeal extended not only to aspiring tennis players, but also young girls and women as well as Black youth and other youth of color.”

Federer, who just as the Williams sisters has been involved in tennis from an early age, has been praised for his character. As Djokovic, one of Federer’s top rivals, puts it, the Swiss player has “set the tone for what it means to achieve excellence and lead with integrity and poise.” As the world awaits rising players to fill their roles as tennis icons, Williams and Federer’s absence will be strongly felt. However, the two have resigned with graceful optimism. Beautifully phrased by Williams, “I have never liked the word retirement… Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”