The new year and the new tennis season is about to start soon. Looking back, the surreal year of 2022 will go down in history as one of the most bittersweet years for the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). It was the year in which tennis icons Roger Federer and Serena Williams bid adieu to the tour after stellar careers that forever changed the world of tennis. It will be extremely rare, if not impossible, to match the careers these two living legends have had in the game. In short succession, both players announced their retirement towards the end of the 2022 season. Their departure will leave a gaping hole in both the men’s and women’s tours from the next year.
Neither player finished their career with the maximum number of Grand Slam titles. Williams secured 23 singles Grand Slam titles, the most in the Open Era. However, she was just one shy of Margaret Court’s record of 24 titles, which she set before the Open Era. Roger Federer was pegged to be the man who would finish with the highest Grand Slam titles in the men’s tour. However, his rivals, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, quickly caught up to him with their resilience. The Swiss retired with 20 Grand Slam singles titles in his cabinet, behind Nadal and Djokovic with 22 and 21 grand slams, respectively.
It was poetic that two champions who led era-defining careers parallelly announced their retirements within weeks of each other. 40-year-old Serena Williams bid farewell to tennis at the US Open amid emotional scenes. Whereas 41-year-old Roger Federer played his last match at the Laver Cup in London, with his greatest rival and friend Rafael Nadal, as his doubles partner. Federer’s farewell was another emotional affair.
Along with his 20 grand slam titles, Roger Federer boasts of one of the most incredible tennis resumes ever. He won a total of 103 titles across surfaces. The Swiss holds the record for most ATP Tour titles (103), hard court tournament titles (7), and grass court tournament titles (19). Due to his consistency, the King of Grass is considered a legend, not just in tennis, but across the sports world. He is the only player to have spent 237 consecutive weeks at the top of the rankings from February 4, 2004, to August 17, 2008. The second-longest streak at the top is 47 weeks lesser.
His trademark one-handed backhand has inspired many players on tour who try to emulate him. His dominance on grass courts was unmatched, with a 65-match unbeaten streak on grass and 19 championship titles on grass, including just one loss in 73 matches from 2003-2009 on the surface. Despite his athletic abilities, his character is the most respected on tour. Federer played 1526 singles and 223 doubles matches on the ATP Tour without retiring from a single one.
Williams had an equally illustrious career, with records for the most slams in the Open Era (23), the most Grand Slam wins for a woman (367), and the most matches won at the US Open (108). She ended her career, causing the first major upset by defeating second seed Anett Kontaviet in her second-last match.
Her powerful serve will go down in history as one of the best. She served a staggering 4000 aces throughout her career and won 75% of her first-serve points. Her final match also created a record for ESPN’s most-viewed match, which drew 4.6 million viewers.
Federer and Williams are also known worldwide for their work off the court. Williams has pushed for equal pay for men and women across professional sports. She has also publicly spoken about the Black Lives Matter movement, gender quality, and body positivity on multiple platforms. Serena also founded the Yetunde Price Resource Center, a violence prevention organization located in her hometown of Compton, Calif, alongside her sister Venus.
Meanwhile, Federer founded The Roger Federer Foundation, which focuses on helping those in need in his native country of Switzerland and southern Africa in 2003. Both stalwarts have inspired an entire generation of athletes to play tennis professionally.
The future of tennis after these two legends saying goodbye looks promising. In the men’s tour, Carlos Alcaraz won his first grand slam title at the 2022 US Open and became the first teenager to finish the year as World No 1. In the women’s draw, Poland’s Iga Swiatek proved herself capable of carrying Serena’s legacy forward by dominating the tour throughout 2022. She accumulated a 37-match unbeaten streak, the longest in the 21st century, also winning the Roland Garros and US Open major titles taking her total grand slam tally to 3.