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Swiss tennis great Roger Federer is retiring at 41

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Another tennis legend is retiring. Switzerland's Roger Federer said today on social media that he is ending his competitive career after more than 1,500 matches over 24 years. Federer won 20 Grand Slam titles - Grand Slam singles titles, that is. His announcement follows Serena Williams' recent decision to evolve away from tennis. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is here now. Hey, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.

SUMMERS: All right. So this news, like a lot of news, came with a video on Twitter. What did Federer say?

GOLDMAN: That he is 41 and done. He's had three straight years of dealing with injuries and surgeries, mainly a bulky knee. And it's proving to be too much. Here's some of what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROGER FEDERER: I've worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body's capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear.

GOLDMAN: Now, Federer says he will play one more event - next week's Laver Cup in London. It's a team event matching top European players against the rest of the world. He loves that event, and it will be his swansong.

SUMMERS: OK. It's hard not to think about the timing here. This is right after the U.S. Open, which was this huge major farewell to Serena Williams - any connection here?

GOLDMAN: Well, none that Federer mentioned. But surely, you know, he paid attention to what happened in New York, including the men's competition that was amazingly competitive, featured a bunch of hard-hitting, fast and athletic players in their early 20s. The champion, Carlos Alcaraz, was 19. So I don't think it's too far a stretch to think Federer saw that and factored it into his decision. You know, I'm twice as old as some of these guys. My body's not cooperating - time to go.

SUMMERS: OK. So as we remember his career, Tom, what image comes to mind when you think of Roger Federer?

GOLDMAN: Flowing, elegant, a player who always seemed in position and never looked awkward. He had a grace and sportsmanship that seemed to fit Wimbledon best with its manners and history. He won a record eight singles titles there. Interestingly, that sportsmanship as an adult player is quite the opposite of him as a kid. He was often a terror on the court, throwing his racquet, swearing. He says it took him till about the age of 19 to get that under control and to stop embarrassing his parents, who threatened not to come watch him if he kept up the bad behavior.

SUMMERS: So as he ends his career, he will not be the men's player with the most Grand Slam singles titles. He's currently third on the all-time list. But what do you think his legacy will be?

GOLDMAN: As one of the big three in men's tennis, along with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic - a trio that has dominated for the past 20 years - also is a man who became very rich with prize money and especially endorsements and business sponsorships that he dealt with in a pretty engaging way. The countless meet-and-greet and corporate sessions that many athletes of his stature loathe, he apparently didn't. A New York Times article last year about his billion-dollar brand described some revealing moments, including one when he visited Nike headquarters in Oregon. He was on his way to another meeting when he stopped his host and said he had to go back to the previous meeting because he forgot to thank the people who helped design his shoes.

SUMMERS: Wow.

GOLDMAN: A small example of a mega-athlete who, according to many, has been a pretty real guy. And one quick other example - he shared his tennis journey closely with his family, traveling with his wife and four kids, sometimes all bunking in the same hotel room - granted, a luxury hotel room for sure but still a nice image.

SUMMERS: That is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thank you.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.