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Novak Djokovic: Roger Federer Farewell One of Most Beautiful Tennis Moments Ever

Switzerland’s Roger Federer (2nd R) speaks with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (2nd L) after playing his final game with Spain’s Rafael Nadal at Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London, early on September 24, 2022. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Parting can be painful.

Seeing Roger Federer showered with love and appreciation in his tennis farewell on Friday night was a profound experience for Novak Djokovic.

Americans Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe saved a match point out-dueling Federer and Rafael Nadal in a gripping 4-6, 7-6(2), 11-9 victory that leveled Team World with Team Europe on the opening day of Laver Cup play in London. 

In the celebratory ceremony that followed, both Federer and Nadal wept—and many in the packed O2 Arena shed tears right along with the champions.

Former world No. 1 Djokovic, who embraced Federer as he came off the court called the stirring ceremony “one of the most beautiful moments” tennis has ever seen.

“We would all agree this was one of the most beautiful moments that everyone has experienced live or on TV on the tennis courts worldwide of all time,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview after a near flawless 6-1, 6-3 dissection of Frances Tiafoe to lift Team Europe to a 6-4 lead over Team World on Saturday night. “We all knew it was going to be an emotional farewell for Roger.”

The reigning Wimbledon champion said he felt a rush of mixed emotions—and gratitude that he could share the stage with fellow Big 4 icons Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in a show of solidarity for Federer and in celebration of the one of the world’s most accomplished athletes and greatest generation the game produced.

“I think we were all taken away by the moment. At the same time it’s kind of a mix of emotions,” Djokovic said. “Sadness because one of the greatest athletes of all time is leaving the sport. But on the other hand seeing him happy with all the way it all played out I was just very grateful and privileged to be alongside other Team Europe and Team World players to witness that.”

The power of Federer sharing his passion and pure emotion with the packed O2 Arena crowd prompted Djokovic to call the emotional farewell “one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever experienced in my life for sure.”

“What got me most emotional was when his children came up and I saw them tearing up that was… sorry Roger I don’t like to tear you up again, but it was a beautiful moment and it was very nice to see Roger’s parents here in London,” Djokovic said. “And of course Mirka and everyone who has been such an instrumental part of his life and career. I understand and I empathize with Roger because I understand what is necessary in order to be on the Tour for such a long time.

“It’s an individual sport so people think that it’s really only up to us and that win or lose we take the blame or we take the credit which is somewhat of a truth but on the other side you wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of the closest ones and I think he said it beautifully yesterday that his wife Mirka and the closest people in his life allowed him to be able to play in such an incredible level for so many years. I’m talking too much but much love to Roger.”

“There’s a lot I want to say. I’m sorry I haven’t been on the Tour in a while and obviously I also witnessed something that is extremely unique and special, and we can’t get enough of what we witnessed yesterday.”