After his final tennis match as a professional, Roger Federer battled back tears through teary eyes on Friday. He still managed to say a lot, though, even after he lost the doubles match at the Laver Cup to Americans Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), and 9-11 with the old adversary and contemporary Rafael Nadal by his side.

“It was never intended to turn out that way. Actually, I was just thrilled to play tennis and be out with my pals,” Federer added. It has been the ideal journey. If given the chance again, I would.

Through the first set of Friday’s match, the fourth and final Laver Cup event played at London’s O2 Arena, Federer’s remarkable career seemed headed for a fairytale conclusion.

Since its conception, Federer has supported the Laver Cup, which pairs players from Team Europe and Team World in a three-day indoor hard court competition meant to be tennis’s equivalent of golf’s Ryder Cup.

In the final singles match of the day on Friday, Federer watched and occasionally offered advice to British partner Andy Murray. Alex de Minaur of Australia defeated Murray, earning him a critical point and reducing Team Europe’s advantage to 2-1.

The fans gave Federer and Nadal a boisterous standing ovation as they entered the court for their play. Some guests raised “We will miss you” signs.

Despite a double fault to start the game, the European team promptly won the first point of the match. Later in the opening set, Federer and Nadal miraculously avoided the first break point of the match to maintain their lead of one set to none. They then broke service in the following game.

Despite taking a 6-5 lead in the second set after a game that lasted more than ten minutes and included the two seasoned adversaries fending off three break points, Federer and Nadal would eventually give that momentum to Tiafoe and Sock. Following their loss in the second-set tiebreaker, Federer and Nadal lost the third set 11-9.

Federer last competed in a professional single match on July 20, 2021, in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. The Italian Matteo Berrettini will take Federer’s position in the Laver Cup singles competition.

In the latter stages of his career, he continued to play while recovering from surgeries and injuries, but the announcement of his retirement came after a scan of his surgically repaired knee, which “was not what I was looking for.”

Federer made his retirement announcement on September 15 in a letter that he uploaded alongside a video on social media because he felt he had no other option.

He told BBC Breakfast that the last three years had been difficult. Since I competed at Wimbledon, I’ve known I’ve been skating on extremely thin ice. I made an effort to return, but my options were limited.

To be honest, I stopped believing in it.

With more than 1,500 tour-level matches under his belt, Federer, who is now 41, leaves with a resume that includes 20 Grand Slam singles titles, 310 weeks as the world’s top player (including 237 weeks in a row), 103 ATP singles titles, and 310 weeks as the top player overall, behind only Nadal’s 22 and Novak Djokovic’s 21.

Federer gave hugs to his opponents, teammates, and coaches after the match on Friday. He hugged a teary-eyed Nadal, then laid his head on Team World captain John McEnroe’s shoulder as they cuddled close to the Team World bench.

During his emotional post-game remarks, Federer praised both his teammates and his rivals, but he stumbled when asked about his family.

“So far, I’ve done ok. I think I can at least converse now. Since I was never able to converse in my vision, I’m doing much better now,” he added, fighting back tears as he thanked his family.

Despite the defeat, which seemed to hurt Nadal more than Federer, the Swiss star said the game was the ideal way to cap out his 24-year career.

It does, he admitted, “feel like a celebration to me.” “This is exactly how I wanted to feel at the conclusion, so thank you,” the speaker said.

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