Federer forever 'linked' to Wimbledon, says Bartoli

By Sports Desk September 16, 2022

Roger Federer will remain forever "linked" with Wimbledon following the 20-time grand slam winner's retirement announcement, says Marion Bartoli.

The Swiss veteran confirmed this month's Laver Cup will be his final top-tier tennis tournament on the ATP Tour, calling time one of the greatest careers in any sport.

But while fellow big-three stars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal remain unparalleled at the Australian Open and French Open respectively, it is Federer who has made Wimbledon his defining legacy.

With eight men's singles triumphs, the 41-year-old is closely associated with the event, and was welcomed back with a riotous reception earlier this year for a parade celebrating the centenary of Centre Court.

Bartoli, the 2013 women's singles champion, was also at that event and she says Federer's legacy in London will remain for decades to come, even as Djokovic creeps closer to levelling it.

"I was lucky enough to have this very special moment," she told Stats Perform. "He was the last one to walk on the court because he won eight times there and the reception from the crowd, it was just absolutely manic.

"The whole [of] Centre Court just exploded. He [is] just so loved there. That 2019 final, where he lost to Novak having had two match points. I don't think one person outside of Novak's family [wanted him to lose].

"Roger and Wimbledon – [the] two are just linked together. It's just his body. The problem is when you just can't do it any more physically. He played more than 1,500 matches over 20-plus years. You can't do this forever.

"There is a certain time when your body has its limits, and [this] was it for Roger. But I think no one can blame him for not trying every single time 100 per cent when he was stepping on the court."

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    Federer, now retired, won 20 grand slam titles between 2003 and 2018 before stepping away from the sport in September of this year, and he is well aware of the challenges players face.

    A number of big-name stars have spoken out about their mental health, including Naomi Osaka and Nick Kyrgios, and Federer feels the packed tennis calendar does not help players.

    "When players retire at a super young age, I totally understand it," Federer told a press conference in Tokyo. "The tour is tough... travel, practice, jetlag.

    "Nobody is allowed to say, 'Oh, I'm tired today', because it looks like you're weak, and that's why players end up having sometimes mental problems.

    "You're supposed to show strength. But we're also not machines, we’re also just human beings."

    Federer played on the tour for 25 years before calling it a day, and he is making the most of being able to finally relax, saying: "As a tennis player you're always thinking about your next practice, your next match. It never lets you go.

    "I don't think I was that much aware of it, how much that thought is always there, and it rides with you, until you retire and then you realise that stress all drops away."

    He pointed to doping tests, and the fact players must constantly make authorities away of their whereabouts.

    "We have to fill out the doping forms every single day, one hour during the day, where you are," Federer said. "You're always aware in the back of your head, they could be coming any moment, especially in that hour.

    "Once that all drops away you actually feel quite lighter, relieved that you can actually live normally again after 25 years."

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    The Serbian, who is bidding to equal Roger Federer's record of six ATP Finals titles, overcame Daniil Medvedev in a bruising three-hour contest on Friday, and he was again made to work hard for victory against spirited American Fritz.

    Djokovic struck first in the opening set with a break to love in the fifth game, yet Fritz responded immediately to level at 3-3.

    A tie-break was needed to separate them after that, with Djokovic's superb forehand winner sealing the first set in style.

    Fritz broke Djokovic in the opening game of the second set, but a simple missed backhand from the American helped his opponent break back to make it 5-5.

    That set the stage for a high-quality tie-break, which Djokovic ultimately won to claim victory in one hour and 54 minutes.

    "I had to fight to survive," Djokovic said on court afterwards. "I didn't feel very reactive today or very comfortable.

    "I knew coming into today's match from yesterday's gruelling battle against Medvedev it would take me some time to adjust and find the dynamic movement I need against Fritz, who is one of the best servers on the tour.

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    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

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    Medvedev – 31/26

    BREAK POINTS WON

    Djokovic – 2/2
    Medvedev – 2/2

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    It initially looked as if he would fall short once again in this winner-take-all clash with Tsitsipas, with both men looking to join Novak Djokovic in progressing from the Red Group.

    He was outclassed by Tsitsipas in the first set but showed the grit to recover from 0-30 down in the opening game of the second to find a crucial hold of serve.

    That proved the catalyst for a stunning turnaround, as Rublev dominated with his fierce forehand and a series of superb passing shots to seal a 3-6 6-3 6-2 victory in Turin.

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