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Thank You, Roger Federer

It's time to bid farewell to the biggest superstar in men's tennis. Tennis specialist Luca Berg reflects on Roger Federer's glorious career and some of the Swiss phenom's most iconic moments through his legendary Wilson Pro Staffs. 
Thank You, Roger Federer Featured Image

I had been fearing the day for a while now. His knee wasn't getting better — the latest setback would keep him out until 2023 — and he certainly wasn't getting any younger.

 

It was a beautiful fall afternoon in southern France, ideal for a bike ride through the countryside. I pulled over to follow a route on my phone and froze in front of the notification on my screen. It was a simple tweet, concise but clear: tennis' king was retiring.

I was shocked and saddened, but my emotions quickly turned nostalgic. Chances are if you were born before 2010, Roger Federer marked your life in some way.

He flipped the tennis world on its head, obliterating Grand Slam records, exploding through the ceiling of athletic popularity, and providing us with timeless, classic matchups with the only two men that can call him a rival. 

But despite the stats, the trophies, the money, and the classics, one thing stands out above all the others when we think of Roger Federer: his elegance.

It's why his records may be broken, but for so many, he'll always be the undisputed greatest. The Swiss maestro was a wizard on the court, waving his Wilson wand as if he had been born to play the sport. His footwork, forehand, serve, and even his backhand are cemented in history as some of the most beautiful shots our sport has ever seen. We'll never grow tired of gawking at the often inexplicable and always magical highlight reels he's left behind.

Great athletes come and go in every sport, but combining talent and elegance with work rate and results takes a special breed few disciplines have ever witnessed. Messi, Maradona, Gretzky, Biles, Jordan, and Woods. They are some of the select few that transcend statistics and leave spectators speechless with mere flashes of brilliance while maintaining results at the highest level.

Federer has cemented himself in sporting history, and we are here to pay our respects to tennis' greatest-ever legend. 

Racket sales are at the heart of our business, and Federer has helped us sell quite a few. Here is a look back at some of his most iconic moments through the perspective of each of his legendary Wilson Pro Staffs. 

2001 Wimbledon: Dethroning the King with his own racket

In many ways, Pete Sampras was the original Roger Federer. He maintained a classic, beautiful style during an era in which the sport was evolving and held the Grand Slam record until 2009. This fourth-round matchup would go down in history as a symbolic changing of the guard seeing the Swiss take down the American in his very own garden with his very own racket.

We'll always remember Federer falling to his knees clutching the original Wilson Pro Staff 6.0 85 as he whizzed a forehand return past a defeated Sampras holding the same frame. Federer would struggle for consistency during a couple of years, falling at the next hurdle of that very same Wimbledon, but came back to London in 2003 with one thing on his mind.

2003 Wimbledon: The First of Many

Things had changed since 2001. Since Sampras' ambiguous retirement earlier that year, Roger Federer was now the tournament favorite and the face of the Pro Staff line. He played the grass-court slam with the Pro Staff Tour 90 and came up against a revamped Mark Philippoussis in the final.

He ended the Aussie's fairytale run defeating him in three hard-fought sets before presenting us with the first of his many iconic Grand Slam match-point celebrations. As he had two years earlier, Federer fell to his knees, clapping his Tour 90 to the ground and raising his arms to the heavens. And, of course, in typical Federer fashion, he broke down in tears realizing what he had just achieved. Emotion like this would endear him to so many throughout his career: raw, charming, and real. 

It was to be the first of many Grand Slam wins and the only one with this version of the Pro Staff. The level that came next, no one could predict.

2004 - 2009: Federer to the Stratosphere

Between 2004 and 2009, Federer produced a level of tennis that we may never see again, as he systematically tore his opponents to shreds.

He competed in an astonishing 20 out of 24 Grand Slam finals, winning all but six, and three of those losses came against the King of Clay at Roland Garros.

It then comes as no surprise that his two most iconic Pro Staffs are the n-Code and the K-Factor, in circulation at the time. The n-Code won more slams, but the K-Factor guided him through more legendary victories and heartbreaking defeats.

We saw him dominate with the classic black, red, and white frame against Novak Djokovic for the first time in a Grand Slam final at the 2007 US Open. But perhaps Federer's most important victory came with the very same racket two years later, at Roland Garros. 


In an era where Rafael Nadal was gobbling up every Coupe des Mousquetaires available, Federer was presented with a golden opportunity when the Spaniard fell in the fourth round to Robin Söderling. He made no mistake in the final, destroying the Swede and exploding with emotion as his opponent's final forehand fell into the net. He'd just completed the career grand slam.

But Federer was also brought back to earth at the end of the K-Factor's lifespan. He lost what many consider the greatest match of all time in the 2008 Wimbledon final against Rafael Nadal and was beaten in his last grand slam with the frame at the 2009 US Open. Federer would later declare that Flushing Meadows final against Juan Martin del Potro the most crushing loss of his career. It marked the end of his domination and the beginning of a much more difficult period for the Swiss.

2010 - 2014: The Doldrums and the Forgotten Frame

It's a testament to Federer's legend that in his most difficult era, he still won an Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2012. The latter was a special match in Federer's illustrious career.

After failing to produce a British grand slam winner for, as Federer so eloquently put it, "over 150,000 years", Andy Murray found himself at his home major up against the Swiss. Throughout his career, Federer had always been the proverbial "home team," but this time, he wasn't. He was up against a fervent British crowd, who supported their local diamond as if it was his last match on this earth. It was surely an odd sensation for a man who'd probably heard a total of three boos and four whistles in his life, but in the end, Federer won, once again falling to his knees, lying in the grass, with his BLX Pro Staff laying at his feet.

This edition of Federer frames has been forgotten in the annals of the tennis industry, perhaps because of its lack of success or perhaps because it marked the end of an era before a drastic change in the Federer setup.

2014 - 2018: The Rebirth and the Return

Federer's lack of success in previous years led him back to the drawing board, and he cooked up a new racket of choice. For over a decade, Federer used a 90 square-inch head size with a 17-millimeter beam. The new Wilson RF 97 Autograph was to be Federer's stand-alone, signature model and supposedly mirrored the exact specs of the new Federer setup. At 22 millimeters thick and with a 97 square-inch head, the change was radical, but the results that followed weren't immediately fruitful.

Between 2013 and 2016, Federer won no grand slams. He spent most of 2016 injured and slipped to 17th in the world before the 2017 Australian Open, where it all turned around.

We'll forever remember that Australian Open final as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal made their way from the depths of their lowly seeds to the top of the tennis world, gladiator style. The two legends fought for over three and a half hours, but something had changed since the last time they met. The classic Nadal high topspin forehand to the Federer backhand wasn't working. The RF 97 was more forgiving, and Federer held his own from the baseline on his weaker wing. Ultimately, Federer's power, precision, and timing were too much for Nadal, and he overcame the Spaniard in yet another iconic Fedal final. Federer was back.

He would consolidate the victory by terrorizing Nadal two months later in the California desert, taking his revenge after a decade of backhand abuse and turning the groundstroke into his biggest weapon. Nadal was shellshocked; his shrugged shoulders and raised eyebrow after match point told the whole story.

The new frame had turned Federer's greatest weakness into a genuine asset, and Federer went on a tear.

He completed the sunshine double before completing the "Cilic double," beating the Croat at the 2017 Wimbledon and 2018 Aussie Open finals. He became the first male to break the 20 grand slam barrier and returned to a position he had held for so long, world number one.

2019: The Last Dance

The 379 days between the 2017 and 2018 Australian Opens were magical for Federer.

He was playing the best tennis of his career, and it was clear that the new frame was a catalyst for current and future success. But at almost 38, his clock was ticking, and his opportunity to win more slams was getting slimmer by the day.

The biggest chance of them all came on July 14, 2019. Little did he know it would be his last major final when he took to Centre Court at Wimbledon against Novak Djokovic. The stage was set for an epic closing act.

After a grueling, mesmerizing, whimsical match, Federer found himself with two match points on his serve. Djokovic won the points, and later the match, in what can only be described as a humanizing result for the crestfallen Swiss. 

In some way, that 2019 Wimbledon typified the tennis world's love for Federer. He played fantastic the whole tournament before suffering a soul-crushing loss yet remained as elegant in defeat as he had always been gracious in victory. He would never make it back to the summit of the tennis world, and the following years were marred by injury setback after injury setback.

2020: Federer, The Businessman

In the twilight of his career, Federer had more time to develop his brand.

His loveable personality and results on the court had already made him a marketing team’s dream, but he also had his own mind for business.

He saw potential in the up-and-coming Swiss brand, ON, and after more than a decade as the face of the Nike Vapor Pro, bought a reported 3% of the company. With Federer’s name on the ON Roger Advantage, the brand exploded in popularity.

His help in revamping the Pro Staff line back in 2014 was also met with overwhelming success. Never before had a tennis company released a frame with pro player specs, but because this was Federer’s, they flew off the shelf. Wilson capitalized on the new-era Pro Staff by releasing a full lineup of gear. In 2022, there is something for everyone, with the 97L serving as an intermediate option and the Pro Staff 97 the more realistic advanced player’s frame. Of course, if you think you can manage Federer’s stick, the RF 97 is always there.

With his image continuing to grow off the court, it became clear that Federer was transitioning to life after retirement. The end was near.

2022: The End

Roger Federer retired on September 23, 2022, playing his final match alongside his doubles partner and greatest-ever rival, Rafael Nadal, at the Laver Cup in London. He was given a sending-off worthy of one of the greatest athletes ever to grace the earth. To us and so many others, he was much more than that.

Federer united the world with his unrelenting desire to produce beautiful tennis and in his ability to win over any crowd. Throughout his career, he was charming, funny, weird, and had a tangible passion for what he was doing. People were in awe of the athlete, but also the man we all felt personally connected to. His retirement will be a great loss for the sport, but his legacy is set in stone for the overwhelming amount of good he did for the game.

From everyone at Rackets & Runners, we have only one thing left to say.

Thank you, Roger Federer.

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