A row of spectators, some way back from the court, are waving a chain of little Swiss flags. Those white-on-red crosses have followed Roger Federer everywhere over his glittering, 24-year career. So has his “RF” monogram, borne on baseball caps and T-shirts and often augmented into the word: “PeRFect.” To many, he is.
Another large Swiss flag held aloft in the stands reads “We love you Roger” with a cartoon picture of a goat. To this crowd of 17,500 fans at the O2 Arena in London, and millions worldwide, Federer is the greatest tennis player of all time. They—we—have traveled across continents to see him play, conquer the four Grand Slams, and redefine a sometimes repetitive sport with artistry and grace. And with flags and caps, camera phones and ready emotions, we were here to witness the epic occasion of his retirement from sport.