Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will never be able to match master of grace Roger Federer

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    Roger Federer exited the tennis stage in London in the early hours on Saturday to waves of heartfelt emotion and rightful acclaim. Professional sport is about winning of course. The Swiss great did plenty of that during his fabulous career but it is also about how the game is played and Federer played it with an elegance that bordered on the hypnotic. 

    Has there ever been a sportsman who has made his world look more graceful? The numbers say Rafael Nadal, his doubles partner in the final act on Friday night, and Novak Djokovic both won more Grand Slams. They also say that both his great rivals won a greater percentage of their head-to-head battles with Federer.

    But there was always something intrinsically satisfying about watching Federer at the peak of his powers which the other two could never match. To sit at Centre Court and behold Federer in full dreamy flow was to watch the brushwork of a master artist.

    It was killer tennis delivered in carpet slippers. The highlights reel of the eight-time Wimbledon winner has been truly global. He stunned Paris in 2009 to interrupt Nadal’s French Open dominance and complete his career Grand Slam.

    He was magnificent in Melbourne in defying the odds to deliver his comeback win after a six-month absence at the Australian Open eight years later. But it was at Wimbledon where the purity of his tennis shone brightest.

    Djokovic is only one title away from matching Federer at the grass-court Grand Slam but the tournament may always be the Swiss’. Certainly he is the event’s favourite son.

    It was a shame the farewell could not have come at SW19 but even the greatest cannot write their own scripts. No matter. The memories he leaves will last a lifetime – and his tearful farewell alongside Nadal and Djokovic at the O2 was just one more of them.

    Federer said: “I enjoyed tying my shoes one more time … the match was great. I couldn’t be happier. It’s been wonderful. And of course, playing with Rafa on the same team and having the guys – everybody here, all the legends – thank you.

    “The last two days have been tough to say the least. Thankfully in moments I totally forgot about it, slept great, everything was wonderful, I could enjoy it, I feel. And because of that I think I will be able to have a better recollection of how it went.

    “Because if it’s all just stress throughout and I want it to be only perfect, I know I will remember half of it. Because I felt the way I felt, I feel like I have dealt with my retirement strongly for the last month.”



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