As the Swiss prepares to play his final match on Friday, John McEnroe says Roger Federer and Serena Williams are “irreplaceable,” but tennis “goes on no matter what.”
Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, will end his glittering career alongside long-time rival Rafael Nadal in the Laver Cup at London’s O2 arena.
In the evening session of the first day of the event, the two players representing Team Europe will face Team World’s Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock in doubles.
Federer’s retirement comes on the heels of Williams’ decision to retire after winning 23 majors in singles.
McEnroe, the captain of Team World, acknowledged that the sport would miss the two players, but he is optimistic about the future, just weeks after 19-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz won the US Open.
He stated, “These two players are irreplaceable.” “I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.”
However, he added: “The sport continues regardless, as we have seen in every sport throughout history.
“There is an opportunity to market these young kids in a way that I don’t believe we have done successfully before.”
McEnroe, a seven-time Grand Slam singles champion, said Williams “brought electricity” to the recent US Open, where she lost in the third round.
However, he stated that other players, such as Alcaraz and America’s Tiafoe, who lost to the Spaniard in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows, contributed to the event being a “electrifying event.”
Taylor Fritz, who is also a member of Team World, stated that the two major retirements would be difficult for many fans, but that the future was bright.
“Serena and Roger probably have more fans than anyone else in tennis,” the American said. “But, you know, there are a lot more players.
“Tennis is becoming more entertaining to me because so many new players are winning.
“It’s really exciting that there are ten different people who could win at these big events. Hopefully, their fans will remain interested in the sport and continue to watch.”
Felix Auger-Aliassime, a Canadian tennis star, believes that “a lot of new players are playing very good, very intense, and entertaining tennis.”
He does, however, hope that Federer and Williams stay in the game.
“They have been icons, idols to all of us sitting here,” he said at a press conference before the tournament. “Hopefully, you know, they’ll be able to give back in some way and stay involved in tennis.”
Nadal, 36, who first faced Federer on the ATP Tour in 2004, said he didn’t need Federer’s retirement to remind him that “the end is near.”
“You know, the normal cycle of life,” he explained. “Some people must leave, while others must come.
“Nothing new here. History always repeats itself. Just this time, it’s us, and in this case, one of the most important, if not the most important, player in the history of this sport is leaving after a super great and super long career.”
Andy Murray, another veteran member of Team Europe, admitted that he had considered retiring.
“As you get older as an athlete, and with some of the physical issues, you do think about what if or when you should stop, when is the right moment, and how would you like it to be,” the three-time Grand Slam champion said.
“I’ve considered it, but I don’t think there are many better ways to go out than this.”