Roger Federer hopes he “can party together” in the future with his legions of fans across the world after retiring from professional tennis.
The 20-time major champion played his last competitive match in emotional scenes at the Laver Cup on Friday.
The 41-year-old Swiss has no specific plans for future exhibitions, but does want to say ‘thank you’ to his fans.
“Hopefully we’ll see each other again on a different type of tennis court, somewhere around the world,” he said.
Former world number one Federer waved goodbye to the professional ranks after teaming up with fellow great Rafael Nadal on an emotional night at the O2 Arena in London.
The pair – for so long rivals at the top of the men’s game – joined forces to play doubles against American pair Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe in the annual team event between Europe and the rest of the world.
Despite Federer not having played competitively for more than a year, the pair pushed Sock and Tiafoe and were unable to convert a match point before losing 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 11-9.
Federer, who has been sidelined regularly over the past two years because of a knee injury which required three surgeries, announced last week he was going to retire after the Laver Cup because his “body’s message lately has been clear”.
“I think the message from me was just making sure I relay my passion for the sport to the fans,” he said after his final match.
“I have no plans whatsoever, where, how, when. All I know, I would love to go and play places I have never played before or go say thank you for years to come to all the people that have been so supportive of me.
“The hard part about the Laver Cup was that tickets were already sold out. The people who maybe would have also loved to be here couldn’t make it.
“Maybe there is another way down the stretch we can party all together.”
‘An important part of my life is leaving too’ – Nadal
One of the most striking images on a memorable night was the sight of Federer and Spain’s Nadal sitting next to each other after the match and both crying.
The pair have been long-time rivals at the top of the sport, but have also become increasingly close friends with mutual respect for each other’s personalities and achievements.
“I’m very proud to be part of his career in some way,” said 36-year-old Nadal.
“But I’m even happier to finish our career like friends after everything we shared on court like rivals.”
Federer, whose tally of major wins has been overtaken by 22-time champion Nadal, said the emotion he saw from family, friends and fans at the end of his final match will be one of his abiding memories.
“That’s what I will remember, the faces I saw emotional. Rafa was one of them,” he smiled.
“We have been very connected, I feel, especially in the last 10 years.
“I think we enjoy each other’s company, and we have so much to look back on, but also just enjoy spending time together.”
Nadal said after the US Open earlier this month he did not know when he would play again because his wife is pregnant with their first child.
But the Spaniard made the trip to London especially for Federer’s finale in the doubles match and, like the Swiss, he will not play over the rest of the weekend after withdrawing for personal reasons.
Team Europe’s two alternates, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini and Britain’s Cameron Norrie, are both down to play in Saturday’s order of play.
“It has been a huge honour to be a part of this amazing moment of the history of our sport and at the same time a lot of years sharing a lot of things together,” said Nadal.
“When Roger leaves the tour, an important part of my life is leaving too.”