Novak Djokovic has released an emotional tribute to his rival and friend Roger Federer after the Swiss icon announced his retirement from the sport on Thursday.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion shared the news on social media prompting heartfelt reactions from across the tennis community. The likes of Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams have congratulated Federer on his achievements, and now, Djokovic has spoken for the first time since the news broke.
Having enjoyed some great battles together down the years, the pair built a respectful rivalry and a great friendship. Federer struggled with injuries which hindered his ability to compete in the latter stages of his career, but the duo will be reunited on court for one last time at the Laver Cup in London this month.
The event takes place at the O2 Arena from 23-25 September and is expected to attract large crowds with fans flocking to see Federer, one of the game’s greatest ever players, in competitive action for the final time.
In a statement on social media, Djokovic spoke of his admiration for Federer both as a player and a person.
“Roger, it’s hard to see this day and put into words all that we’ve shared in this sport together. Over a decade of incredible moments and battles to think back on,” he said.
“Your career has set the tone for what it means to achieve excellence and lead with integrity and poise. It’s an honour to know you on and off court, and for many more years to come.”
The Serb continued by extending his well wishes to Federer’s family and expressing his excitement for their Laver Cup reunion.
“I know that this new chapter will hold amazing things for you, Mirka, the kids, all your loved ones, and Roger fans still have a lot to look forward to. From our family to yours, we wish you much joy, health, and prosperity in the future.
“Looking forward to celebrating your achievements and seeing you in London.”
Federer made his professional debut aged 16 in 1998 and won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003. Only Spain’s Rafael Nadal (22) and Djokovic (21) have more Grand Slam singles titles than the 41-year-old, who will bring the curtain down on an illustrious career in one week’s time.