Swiss legend Roger Federer will play his last match this Friday night in London, in the doubles Laver Cup with Rafael Nadal. An opportunity to remember the trips of the five great champions.
Pete Sampras, a farewell success
It’s not easy to leave the circuit at the top of your game. Pete Sampas, 14 major champions, seven of whom were at Wimbledon, had an epic final match. Sampras left the world of tennis on 26 August 2002 against his rival and compatriot Andre Agassi. He won the US Open final (6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4) to earn his career final. Grand Slam. It’s a high-flying course, especially after knocking out Tommy Haas and Andy Roddick. A title with a very special taste as Sampras had a real fall in the months before the tournament. Another peculiarity of Sampras’ last game is that his retirement was not planned in itself, with no one aware that this final was his last: his decision was not formalized in the months following the final and after several attempts to return to the competition. A farewell ceremony was then held at the 2003 US Open.
John McEnroe, a farewell and three returns
The most explosive character in circuit history had a career that ended in a few episodes. In 1986, John McEnroe took an initial six-month hiatus before returning to competition. The American announced his (real) retirement at the end of the 1992 season, but made a brief return to the circuits at the Rotterdam invite tournament in 1994: he was quickly sent off by Magnus Gustafsson in the first round. Later, McEnroe accepted several invitations, notably in mixed doubles with German Steffi Graf in 1999, where they reached the semifinals of Wimbledon together before losing. In 2006 he won the San José tournament in doubles with Swedish Jonas Björkman. The last championship the American won.
Björn Borg, a very early start
A few months after losing to Yannick Noah in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters, Björn Borg shocked the tennis world on January 23, 1983, by announcing his retirement after just eleven years at the top level and just 26 years old. Despite the demands of the public and some rivals such as McEnroe, the Swede will not change his mind for many years. Nevertheless, he tried to get back into the competition by accepting several invitations against Henri Leconte in Monte-Carlo and Stuttgart in 1984. His victories in Osaka that same year and Tokyo in 1985 will remain anecdotal. At the age of 35, Borg made one last unsuccessful comeback until his last game on the indoor carpet in 1991, with scant exhibition appearances in several cities (Nice, Monte-Carlo, Munich, Washington, Los Angeles, Bordeaux, Basel and Toulouse). 1993 in Moscow.
Andre Agassi, final lap at US Open
Here’s another great outing: Andre Agassi left the tennis circuit at the US Open on September 3, 2006 – as did Pete Sampras. But unlike his bigs, Agassi will come out the back door and be eliminated in four sets by German Benjamin Becker. It’s an extremely intense tournament for the American player who has to get chain injections after every game to relieve chronic back, ankle and leg pain. What was noteworthy, though, was Flushing Meadows’ impressive win over Marcos Baghdatis, who was runner-up at the Australian Open and Wimbledon semi-finalist in five sets that season. Agassi’s 2006 overall took the form of a farewell tour to Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who won his third Wimbledon, followed by world No.
Ivan Lendl, a secret trip
If some walk out the front door, others retire in virtual anonymity, that’s the unfortunate case of Ivan Lendl. No longer able to compete with McEnroe, Edberg or Becker, whose final final he lost in Australia in 1991, the Czechoslovak left the tennis family in the second round of the US Open at the end of August 1994, after several years of rapid decline. In his last professional year at Roland-Garros, he was eliminated in the first round against Stéphane Huet, after which he was ranked 294th in the world rankings. At Wimbledon, he misses a round before going up against Arnaud Boestch due to back problems.