Swiss legend Roger Federer will play his final match this Friday night in London, in doubles with Rafael Nadal at the Laver Cup. The opportunity to remember the departures of five great champions.
Pete Sampras, a success as a farewell
Leaving the circuit at the top of your game is not easy. Pete Sampas, winner of 14 majors, including seven at Wimbledon, had one last legendary encounter. It was against his rival and compatriot Andre Agassi that Sampras left the world of tennis on August 26, 2002. He won the final of the US Open (6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6- 4) to win his last race. Grand Slam. A high-flying course after knocking out Tommy Haas and Andy Roddick in particular. A title with a very particular flavor as Sampras experienced a real decline in the months before the tournament. The other originality of Sampras’ last match is that his retirement was not in itself planned, no one knew that this final was his last – his decision was not formalized until months after the final and then of several attempts to return to the competition. A farewell ceremony was then held at the 2003 US Open.
John McEnroe, one bye and three returns
The most explosive character in circuit history had a career that ended in several chapters. In 1986, John McEnroe took his first six-month break before returning to competition. The American announced a (real) retirement at the end of the 1992 season. However, he made a brief return to the circuit at the Rotterdam Invitational in 1994: he was quickly dispatched by Magnus Gustafsson in the first round McEnroe subsequently accepted a few invitations, most notably in mixed doubles with Germany’s Steffi Graf in 1999, where they reached the Wimbledon semifinals together before losing. In 2006, he won the doubles tournament in San Jose with Sweden’s Jonas Björkman. Last title won by the American.
Björn Borg, too early a start
A few months after his defeat against Yannick Noah in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters, Björn Borg shocked the tennis world by announcing his retirement on 23 January 1983 after only eleven years at the highest level and aged just 26 years. Despite the demands of the public and some opponents like McEnroe, the Swede will not change his mind for many years. However, he tried to return to competition by accepting a few invitations where he fell to Henri Leconte in Monte-Carlo and Stuttgart in 1984. His victories in Osaka the same year and Tokyo in 1985 will remain anecdotal. At age 35, Borg staged an unsuccessful comeback in 1991 with sparse appearances in various cities (Nice, Monte Carlo, Munich, Washington, Los Angeles, Bordeaux, Basel and Toulouse) until his final match on the indoor mat. in Moscow in 1993.
Andre Agassi, last round at the US Open
Here’s another big departure: Andre Agassi retired from the tennis circuit on September 3, 2006 at the US Open, as did Pete Sampras. But unlike his elder, Agassi will go out the back door, knocked out in four sets by German qualifier Benjamin Becker. A tournament of extreme intensity for the American player, forced to chain injections after each match to relieve his chronic back, ankle and leg pain. However, his impressive victory over Marcos Baghdatis, runner-up at the Australian Open and semi-finalist at Wimbledon that season, in that edition of Flushing Meadows in five sets should be highlighted. Agassi’s 2006 generally took the form of a farewell tour with a third loss at Wimbledon to eventual winner Rafael Nadal of Spain, then world No. 2.
Ivan Lendl, a discreet exit
If some leave through the front door, others retire into virtual anonymity, this is the unfortunate case of Ivan Lendl. No longer able to compete against McEnroe, Edberg or Becker against whom he lost his last final in Australia in 1991, the Czechoslovak left the tennis family in the second round of the US Open in late August 1994 after several years of rapid decline. At Roland-Garros, during his last professional year, he was eliminated in the first round against Stéphane Huet, then ranked 294 in the world. At Wimbledon, he misses a round before going out against Arnaud Boestch due to back problems.