From China to India and from France to the United States, world media hailed Roger Federer as one of the greatest athletes of all time on Friday after the Swiss legend announced he was retiring from tennis.
The 41-year-old has been struggling with knee injuries in recent years and will end his historic career after next week’s Laver Cup in London.
Prominent French sports newspaper L’Equipe, alluding to the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II last week, ran the headline ‘God Save the King’ alongside a photo of Federer gazing thoughtfully at the sky.
“His entire game bordered on artistry and grandeur,” said L’Equipe, discussing whether he was the greatest athlete of all time, alongside the likes of Pele, Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt and Michael Jordan.
Spaniard El Pais said that Federer’s announcement was no surprise but ‘that doesn’t make it any less painful’.
But British tabloid The Sun called Federer’s retirement a shock, calling his 20 Grand Slam titles “outrageous”.
“Federer has been heavily injured in recent seasons,” the newspaper noted.
The BBC raved that the tennis ace had “achieved athletic perfection”.
On its website, it was reminiscent of a quote from Federer’s rival Novak Djokovic: “You have to wonder if he’s from the same planet.”
“With a graceful swing of a forehand, a spot-on serve or a gentle wave to the crowd, the Swiss legend won fans like no one before him,” the BBC said.
– ‘Shotmaking and class’ –
Federer’s imminent departure, which quickly follows that of his tennis legend Serena Williams, also made headlines from afar.
In China, The Paper in Shanghai recalled how Federer once called the city “like a second home” and praised him for his longstanding support of the Masters tournament there.
A two-time title winner in Shanghai, he was always the star no matter who else played.
The newspaper described Federer as “an old friend of the people of Shanghai” and told how he once took the subway into the city, paid for the ticket himself and chatted with an elderly man.
Speaking in New Delhi, The Indian Express said Federer was “not a super athlete but (was) a real modern sporting great”.
It said that the appearance of Carlos Alcaraz, the new US Open champion and world number one at just 19, in connection with Federer’s retirement was a “momentum turning moment”.
The New York Times noted how Federer had matured from a “racket-throwing Swiss teenager” into “one of the most polished athletes in the world”.
Rafael Nadal and Djokovic may have won more Grand Slams – 22 and 21 respectively – but The Times said neither has done it with Federer’s grace.
“He didn’t move as much as flow,” the newspaper said.
“Federer…has touched tennis fans worldwide with his striking technique and class on and off the court for more than 20 years,” he concluded.