Rafael Nadal led tributes for Roger Federer after the 20-time Grand Slam champion called the time of the legendary tennis career at the age of 41.
Considered by many to be the greatest tennis player of all time, Federer shared a huge rivalry with Nadal and also Novak Djokovic in an unprecedented era of “big three” dominance.
The Swiss has met Nadal 40 times in his career, with the pair involved in several iconic battles, including in 2008 Wimbledon 2017 Australian Open final and final.
Federer will retire after the Laver Cup in London next weekend, where he will join Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray as part of Team Europe against the rest of the world.
Nadal wrote on Twitter: “Dear Roger, my friend and rival, I wish this day would never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world.
“It has been a pleasure, but also an honor and a privilege to share with you all these years, experiencing so many amazing moments on and off the court.
“In the future we will have many more moments to share together, we still know what to do together.
“For now, I sincerely wish you all the happiness with your wife Mirka, your children, your family and enjoy what awaits you ahead. See you in London.”
Billie Jean King, winner of 12 Grand Slams in women’s singles, took to Twitter to pay tribute to Federer.
“Roger Federer is the champion of the champion,” she wrote on her official account.
“Having the most complete game of his generation, he has won the hearts of sports fans around the world with his amazing agility on court and powerful tennis mind. He had a storied career with memories that will live on.
“Congratulations, Roger Federer. We wish you all the best on your journey.”
Responding to Federer’s retirement letter, Martina Navratilova wrote on Twitter: “What a heartfelt message full of love, life, hope, passion and gratitude. That’s how Roger played the game we love so much. Thank you thank you thank you for all the magic!!!”
Rod Laver, after whom Federer named the Laver Cup, wrote simply: “Thanks for everything Roger. See you soon. Rocket”
Federer’s rivals also paid tribute. Andy Roddick, defeated in three Wimbledon finals, wrote on Twitter: “Believe Roger. Thanks for the shared memories my friend. It was an honor to share my time/experience in the most hallowed places in our sport. Don’t be a stranger.
Also, it seems like a good time to start training for Wimby (Just kidding, obviously).”
Juan Martin Del Potro, the only player other than Nadal and Djokovic to beat Federer in a Grand Slam final, said on Instagram: “You made tennis a unique sport.
“Thank you for teaching us by example on and off the court. I am grateful to have shared your journey and been able to play so many matches together.
“Thank you. Thank you for testing us all, raising our standards in every tournament we played in, for everything you have given to our sport, for how warm you have always been to me and so much more. I’m sorry, that’s not what I wanted to hear. I wish you a wonderful life with Mirka and your children.”
Additional report from PA