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Federer: Nobody Is Allowed to Say I'm Tired

By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, November 21, 2022

Life on the pro tennis treadmill can be lonely and tough.

Recently-retired Roger Federer says while he enjoyed traveling the world, the weekly grind of global travel—combined with the constant pressure of tournament play—can cause some players to walk away. .

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Speaking at Uniqlo Life Wear Day, a promotional event for his apparel sponsor, Uniqlo, in Tokyo over the weekend, Federer said the demands of the pro circuit can wear players down physically and drain them mentally.

"You're supposed to show strength. But we're not machines, were human beings," Federer told the media in Tokyo over the weekend. "When players retire at a super young age, I totally understand it.

"We see it from time to time. I always feel its such a pity, because there could still be so much going on in the future."

Widely regarded as one of the most elegant champions in the history of the sport, Federer concludes his career with 103 career titles, a 1,251-275 record, more than $130 million in career prize money and provider of thousands of thrills to devoted Fed fans around the world.

Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Federer contested an astounding 23 straight major semifinals and 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals starting at the 2004 Wimbledon.

Former world No. 1 Ash Barty retired at age 25 after capturing her third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last January. Several players, including Naomi Osaka, Nick Kyrgios and Bianca Andreescu, have openly discussed experiencing mental health issues from the rigors of life on the road.

In her bombshell retirement announcement, Barty, who previously walked away from the sport in part because of the extensive travel and time away from her family, shared "I am spent."

“I am spent. I just know physically I have nothing more to give and that, for me, is success,” Barty said. “I’ve given absolutely everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis and I’m really happy with that.”

Former world No. 1 Federer says some are reluctant to discuss exhaustion, depression or other mental health issues "because it looks like you're weak." 

"The tour is tough... the travel, the practice, the jet lag," Federer said. "Nobody is allowed to say, 'I'm tired today,' because it looks like you're weak, and that's why players sometimes end up with mental [health] problems."

The 41-year-old Federer, who made a tearful and powerful farewell to tennis partnering rival Rafael Nadal at Laver Cup in September,  said his body told him to close the curtain on his glorious career.

"My body's message to me lately has been clear," Federer said. "I have played more than 1,500 matches over 24 years. Now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career."

One thing Federer says he doesn't miss about the sport: the whereabouts rule that requires players to share where they are every day with doping authorities.

"We have to fill out the doping forms every single day, one hour during the day, where you are," Federer said. "You're always aware in the back of your head they could be coming any moment, especially in that hour.

"I don't think I was that much aware of it, how much that thought is always there, and it rides with you, until you retire and then you realize that stress all drops away."

Photo credit: Richard Brooks/Getty