HONG KONG: From China to India, and France to the United States, world media hailed Roger Federer as one of the finest sportsmen ever on Friday after the Swiss legend announced he will retire from tennis.
The 41-year-old has struggled in recent years with knee injuries and will end his historic career after next week’s Laver Cup in London.
Prominent French sports newspaper L’Equipe, in a nod to the death last week of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, went with the headline “God Save the King” together with a photo of Federer gazing thoughtfully skywards.
“His entire game bordered on art and the sublime,” L’Equipe said, debating whether he was the greatest sportsman of all time, up there with the likes of Pele, Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt and Michael Jordan.
Spain’s El Pais said that Federer’s announcement was not a surprise but “that does not make it any less painful”.
But British tabloid The Sun called Federer’s retirement a shock and labelled his 20 Grand Slam titles “outrageous”. “Federer has been sorely hampered by injuries in recent seasons,” the newspaper noted.
The BBC gushed that the tennis ace “reached sporting perfection”.
On its website it recalled a quote from Federer’s rival Novak Djokovic: “You have to wonder if he’s from the same planet.”
“With a graceful swish of a forehand, a pinpoint delivery of a serve or a gentle wave to the crowd, the Swiss legend gained fans unlike anyone before him,” the BBC said.
‘Shotmaking and class’
Federer’s imminent exit, which quickly follows that of fellow tennis legend Serena Williams, also made headlines farther afield.
In China, The Paper in Shanghai recalled how Federer had once called the city “like a second home” and praised him for his long-time support of the Masters tournament there.
He was twice a title winner in Shanghai and always the star attraction, no matter who else was playing.
The Paper labelled Federer “an old friend of the Shanghai people” and recounted how he had once taken a subway train in the city, paying for the ticket himself and having a chat with an elderly man.
In New Delhi, The Indian Express said that Federer was “not a super-athlete but (was) a true modern-day sporting great”.
It said that the emergence of Carlos Alcaraz, the new US Open champion and world number one at just 19, coupled with Federer’s retirement, was a “page-turning moment”.
The New York Times noted how Federer had matured from a “racket-throwing Swiss teenager” into “one of the world’s most polished athletes”.
Rafael Nadal and Djokovic may have won more Grand Slams – 22 and 21 respectively – but The Times said that neither did it with Federer’s grace.
“He did not move so much as flow,” said the newspaper. “Federer… touched tennis fans worldwide for more than 20 years with his shotmaking and class on and off the court,” it concluded.