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‘I didn’t know…’: Federer’s coach on ‘painful’ call over retirement announcement | Tennis News

Roger Federer is approaching a year since the official announcement of his retirement, which has allowed his family, friends, and fans to get to terms with the fact that he is no longer an active tennis player. However, as an iconic and important part of the ATP for over 20 years, it is still a difficult fact to reconcile with.

Ivan Ljubicic spoke about Roger Federer's retirement.
Ivan Ljubicic spoke about Roger Federer’s retirement.

Former world number 3 Ivan Ljubicic, who was Federer’s coach over the latter part of his career, opened up about the difficulties retirement has forced upon Federer and the people around him. The Swiss played his final singles match in the Wimbledon 2021 quarterfinals, but would wait until the Laver Cup of 2022 to say goodbye, signing off with a doubles match alongside his great rival and friend Rafael Nadal.

Ljubicic spoke about how he was informed of Federer’s decision, made because of age and his body beginning to become more and more of a burden on him. “It was a phone call. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. We had doubts for a long time if he would ever return.”

Federer won his final grand slam at the Australian Open 2018, but a run to the finals in Wimbledon 2019 and a semifinal appearance in Melbourne 2020 would have indicated that he still had some time left to give to the tour. However, that 2020 AO run was extremely laboured and difficult, and knee surgery would follow.

Despite Federer’s retirement on the horizon at age 40 and struggling with movement on and off the court, it was still a difficult pill for Ljubicic to swallow. “It was silence. I didn’t know what to say, honestly. It’s hard… I felt his pain.”

The Croatian went pro in 1998, the same year as Federer, but retired in 2012 at the age of 33, having peaked at number 3 in his best season in 2006. Ljubicic, who has also coached Tomas Berdych and Milos Raonic, revealed that he tried his best to ease the process fo calling it time on Federer’s long and successful career.

“I felt that it was not an easy call for him, so I tried to comfort him as I could, because I needed comfort too. So it was a difficult time, very difficult. But again, it was not a surprise.”

Ljubicic also reflected on his relationship with Federer as his coach. They joined forces in 2016 ahead of Wimbledon, a tournament where Federer had lost the previous two finals to Novak Djokovic. It was an ominous start as Federer tore his meniscus prior to that tournament and struggled with his knee in the semifinal loss against Ljubicic’s former charge, Milos Raonic.

However, Ljubicic claims that it was a blessing in disguise, as that difficult time allowed for their relationship to blossom. “The start was tough because in the second tournament he injured his knee meniscus and had the first operation, which was a big blow, at Wimbledon 2016. But at the same time, looking back, maybe it was lucky for us, to have time to work and get to know each other even better.”

Federer has been out of the public spotlight for large parts since his retirement, but was present at Wimbledon 2023 to watch Andy Murray play, amongst others, as well as for duties for his various foundations and partnerships. Federer wishes to spend time with his family after the majority of his life spent on the ATP tour, and it remains to be seen if he returns to tennis in any capacity in the future.

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