Fans have no shortage of qualifiers to pay tribute to the Swiss, who will retire after the Laver Cup.
Hundreds of fans rushed Thursday to attend Roger Federer's last training session in London, inconsolable to see this “gentleman of tennis” retire with unanimously acclaimed ease and elegance.
On the eve of his last match, a double in association with his great rival Rafael Nadal, within the framework of the Laver Cup which pits a team from Europe against the Rest of the World, the queue to enter the O2 Arena n t was, however, nothing of a funeral wake.
Most often purchased long before the announcement, a week ago, of his upcoming retirement, these tickets suddenly took on a value almost as symbolic as pecuniary, tickets for his match on Friday evening reselling more than 2,300 euros on the internet .
"I'm extremely lucky to see him before he retires," said 26-year-old entrepreneur Shanav Shah, who came with a friend carrying a "Roger, can I buy you a drink for your retirement?" .
“We have to love him”
“We bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale in March because they said he would be there. We only came for him”, assured Salma Mashhour, 30, doctoral student in Political Science.
Some were able to witness his exploits directly, such as Judith Flavel, a 68-year-old retiree who wore a red t-shirt with a white cross, like the Swiss flag, crossed out with the name of Roger Federer.
“I already saw him here at the Masters in 2010”, the year he beat Nadal in the final, she recalled.
"He's the best," she said, "Nadal isn't far behind, but his sportsmanship, his work ethic, I like everything about him."
The qualifiers that come back to evoke his game are often the same.
“He gives the impression that this sport is so simple with his ease. I think he encouraged a lot of people to get into tennis,” said 14-year-old Corey Blackwell, who came with his mother.
If he had never seen him in real life before this Thursday, he will keep as a memory of “Roger” the “victory at Wimbledon in 2017 where he did not lose a set of the whole tournament. It was truly masterful."
"Even if you prefer Nadal or Djokovic, you can't not appreciate Federer, you have to love him, he's such a gentleman," went so far as to say Carla Khoury, a 31-year-old doctoral student in pediatrics.
"I can't imagine tennis without him"
"I like him but I prefer Nadal," confessed Cathy Geary, 56 and retired. "Roger plays magnificent tennis but I don't have a real emotional connection with him," she explained.
“But his game looks so natural, so elegant (…) It was a real pleasure to watch him play. I will miss him,” she finally admitted.
The announcement of his retirement, although dreaded, didn't really surprise fans.
“We have been talking about his retirement for 10 years. It will never be the right time, but it had to happen sooner or later,” admits philosopher Judith Flavel.
"He had an incredible career but I don't think he could come back to his best level, so it was supposed to," also judged Cathy Geary.
The prospect of an ATP circuit without Federer is however destabilizing for some.
"I was born in 2003, when he won his first Grand Slam, and I've known him all my life, I can't imagine tennis without him," confessed Ella Weaver, 19, a history student at Cambridge.
“He is an absolute tennis god (…), I will be devastated” when he is no longer there, admitted Jennie Douglas, 50, a retired teacher, while hoping “to see him again soon on TV comments” .
Taking his place in hearts will not be easy.
“I was really dreading that day. I know it sounds very solemn, but it's true (…) I'm going to have a hard time finding someone I'll support so much, ”lamented Naia Martin, 27, a Human Resources employee.