First Serena Williams, now Roger Federer

First Serena Williams, now Roger Federer - Tennis' worst nightmares have come true - GETTY IMAGES

First Serena Williams, now Roger Federer – Tennis’ worst nightmares have come true – GETTY IMAGES

In the summer of 1981 two sporting greats were born: Roger Federer and Serena Williams. After 41 summers, both decided to put on their racket for the last time in the same month.

Federer and Williams were born 49 days after giving birth all those years ago. Together, almost side by side, they came to dominate the tennis court at the highest level, set new records, new standards, and joined the exclusive list of sports icons known in every corner of the world.

It is fitting, then, that they both finished a few days apart. But for all the poignant symmetry of their exits, September may be remembered as a devastating symmetry for tennis as a whole. Retirement in the sport is inevitable, and these two have been coming for a long time. Both are in their forties and neither Williams nor Federer have competed consistently in recent years. However, however, the void they leave is clear and comes In a moment when tennis feels volatile.

On the women’s front, there have been recent indications of potential heirs, not least the three-time lead champions Ash Party and Naomi Osaka, who have already amassed four majors. But Osaka’s physical and mental struggles in the past two seasons in addition to that Barty retired early at the age of 25 Earlier this year he ended that rivalry dream. World number one Iga Swiatek has shown her ability to dominate this year with her 37-game winning streak, and she’s a proven champion and a brilliant spokesperson for everything from mental health to the war in Ukraine, but she’s still underrated.

On the men’s side, the “next generation” theme in men’s tennis has been going on for at least a decade. The lack of succession planning is thanks in large part to the dominance of the Big Three. In the past five years, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won 19 of the 22 major titles. Longevity, achieving that success in your late 30s, is remarkable and has changed our expectations for athletes. Federer’s retirement announcement came just days later Carlos Alcaraz of Spain has declared himself to the world correctlyThe youngest world record ever in the history of the ATP. We can look back and see that it’s a straightforward and clean change of guard. But at 19, it seems too soon to ride Alcaraz with the pressures of carrying a sport on his shoulders, or anticipating competition for him comparable to that of the Big Three.

Their time at the top made tennis relevant to fans in a way the sport had never experienced before, as did the story of perseverance, talent and success against all odds that Williams and sister Venus brought from the late 1990s. They’ve all opened up the sport to new fans, and the fear is that interest may fizzle out as this generation’s star power fades forever. Still, the charisma that Williams still has is unparalleled. Farewell to the US Open The event earlier this month was a testament to that, drawing record-breaking crowds to Flushing Meadows in New York, and every game I played had the atmosphere of a Grand Slam final.

Fans of the thousands flock to Swansong Serena Williams - Associated Press

Fans of the thousands flock to Swansong Serena Williams – Associated Press

Federer won’t get that last raucous applause in a major event, due to the knee injury that ended his career, but The Laver Cup will be a reminder That the most popular and convenient men in tennis are on the precarious path of near retirement. Although Nadal miraculously won in two major ways earlier this year, when he pulled out of the Wimbledon semi-final due to injury, he indicated how close he was to finally giving up. Champion’s complicated absence from both the Australian and US Opens, due to his refusal to get vaccinated, showed that – despite his brilliance on the court – he can’t compete with the same freedom of movement he is accustomed to at this final stage of his career. Andy Murray’s metallic hip gave him the latest recovery he’s been craving on the court, but he still hasn’t been able to delve into a major since.

They were all battered and bruised, yet they didn’t seem to be overrun. Alcaraz readily admitted this week that he stepped into the New York open space, with Nadal far from his best, Djokovic’s absence, and Daniil Medvedev still lacking the consistency fans crave. Perhaps this is an unfair request for fans to introduce these very young new heroes. big three bar, Federer’s leadershipIt’s still too high just for humans to reach it. Maybe they just need time. Or maybe we will never have heirs ready to completely replace them, because this is the best era we are likely to have.

Williams continues to prolong the long farewell, as she has been toying with the emotions of tennis fans this week by suggesting she might come back, as did NFL quarterback Tom Brady, post-retirement announcement. But her story, Federer’s story and this golden generation will end. The amazing thing is that even after almost 25 years, we’re not ready to say goodbye. This says as much about those who make their ultimate bows as the sport they leave behind.

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