Roger Federer is retiring from professional tennis at age 41 after a series of knee operations, closing a career in which he won 20 Grand Slam titles, finished five seasons ranked No. 1 and helped create a golden era of men's tennis with rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
"As many of you know, the past three years have presented me with challenges in the form of injuries and surgeries," Federer said Thursday in a post on his social media accounts. "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.
"I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career."
To my tennis family and beyond,— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) September 15, 2022
Federer's 20 Grand Slam titles rank third all time among men's players behind only contemporaries Nadal (22) and Djokovic (21).
Federer said he intends to keep playing tennis, "but just not in Grand Slams or on the tour." He had not played a competitive match since reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2021 and announced in mid-August that he had undergone another knee surgery.
But he had appeared at an event marking the 100th anniversary of Centre Court at the All England Club in July and said he hoped to come back to play there "one more time." He also had said he would return to tournament action at the Swiss Indoors in October.
"This is a bittersweet decision, because I will miss everything the tour has given me," Federer said. "But at the same time, there is so much to celebrate. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it at a level that I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible."
Nadal expressed a similar sentiment, tweeting, "I wish this day would have never come," but also expressing gratitude for the opportunity to "share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court."
Dear Roger,my friend and rival.— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) September 15, 2022
I wish this day would have never come. It's a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world.
It's been a pleasure but also an honor and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court 👇🏻
We will have many more moments to share together in the future, there are still lots of things to do together, we know that.— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) September 15, 2022
For now, I truly wish you all the happiness with your wife, Mirka, your kids, your family and enjoy what's ahead of you. I'll see you in London @LaverCup
Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray are set to play together for the first time when they compete Sept. 23-25 as part of Team Europe at the Laver Cup in London. Named after Australian great Rod Laver, the three-day team event, which is run by Federer's management company, pits six of Europe's top players against six from the rest of the world.
Tony Godsick, Federer's agent since 2005, told The Associated Press that Federer had been having issues in his latest recovery from knee surgery.
"A few weeks after Wimbledon, he informed me that the knee was not reacting as well as it should and that he was thinking about figuring out a way to end his career," Godsick said in a telephone interview. "I had suggested to him years ago that he should stop. Not many tennis players at his level push into their 40s. But he was always interested in challenging himself. And at the end of the day, after 1,500-plus matches, the tires finally wore out. And he's got things to do in his next stage."
Federer leaves with 103 tour-level titles on his substantial résumé and 1,251 wins in singles matches, both second only to Jimmy Connors in the Open era, which began in 1968. Federer's records include being the oldest No. 1 in ATP rankings history -- he returned to the top spot at 36 in 2018 -- and most consecutive weeks there; his total-weeks mark was eclipsed by Djokovic.
The dominance Federer displayed at the height of his powers is unrivaled, including reaching 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals, winning eight, from 2005 to 2007, a run that also extended to 18 of 19 major finals into 2010.
In a sport where changes in surface and other conditions can make even the best players thrilled with a showing here or there into the second week of a Slam, Federer compiled streaks of 36 quarterfinals in a row and 23 semifinals in a row from 2004 to 2013.
"Roger Federer is a champion's champion. He has the most complete game of his generation and captured the hearts of sports fans around the world with an amazing quickness on the court and a powerful tennis mind," Hall of Famer Billie Jean King said. "He has had a historic career with memories that will live on and on."
When Federer won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2003, Pete Sampras held the men's record for titles; the American had won his 14th at the US Open the year before in what turned out to be the final match of his career.
Federer would go on to blow way past that, ending up with 20 by winning eight championships at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the US Open and one at the French Open. His 2009 trophy at Roland Garros allowed Federer to complete a career Grand Slam.
His serving, forehand, footwork and attacking style will all be remembered. Also unforgettable were his matches against younger rivals Nadal, 36, and Djokovic, 35, who both equaled, then surpassed, Federer's Slam total and are still winning titles at the sport's four biggest tournaments.
"I was lucky enough to play so many epic matches that I will never forget," Federer said in Thursday's announcement. Addressing his "competitors on the court," although not by name, he wrote: "We pushed each other, and together we took tennis to new levels."
Federer and his wife, Mirka -- a tennis player too; they met as athletes at an Olympics -- have two sets of twins.
Serena Williams, who announced ahead of the US Open that she intends to retire from tennis, sent a tribute of her own to Federer on Thursday.
"I wanted to find the perfect way to say this, as you so eloquently put this game to rest -- perfectly done, just like your career," Williams said in a post on Instagram.
"I have always looked up to you and admired you. Our paths were always so similar, so much the same. You inspired countless millions and millions of people -- including me -- and we will never forget. I applaud you and look forward to all that you do in the future.
"Welcome to the retirement club. And thank you for being you @rogerfederer."