Tennis will withstand big-name retirements

LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer was paying attention right along with everybody else when Serena Williams played what is expected to be her last match three weeks ago at the US Open.

“Not surprised. Just very similar to me, in many ways. We were expecting it to come at some point,” Federer told The Associated Press. “You don’t ever want players like Serena to ever retire. … I just thought, ‘What a great career.’”

He recognizes that their back-to-back exits after about a quarter-century each in tennis — he is 41 and leaves with 20 Grand Slam titles and she turns 41 on Monday and has 23 major singles championships — will spur some fans to move on from the sport.

Federer insists, though, that plenty will stick around.

“I mean, look, it’s going to leave some fans with not the same taste for the game. We might lose some, because they say, ‘OK, well that chapter for me closes, and I’ll move on to another sport or another athlete,'” Federer said in an interview Wednesday at the Laver Cup, where the final match of his stellar career will be in doubles alongside rival Rafael Nadal for Team Europe on Friday night.

“And some will stay with the game forever, because tennis is just a sport (that), once you’re in it, you’re normally in it. That’s why I don’t believe a lot of people will leave,” he continued. “But they won’t maybe wake up at 3 in the morning anymore for the Australian Open. Or they might not use their vacation time to travel to a place. Maybe they say for a few years, ‘OK, let me go with a friend of mine and do a good adventure trip somewhere,’ until they find their way back in.”

He and Williams — along with Nadal, a 36-year-old who has a men’s-record 22 Slam titles, and Novak Djokovic, a 35-year-old with 21 titles — helped create a golden era in the sport, drawing new viewers and inspiring new players.

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