Roger Federer has retired from playing tennis at the 2022 Laver Cup, ending a legendary career. The Swiss chose the exhibition he founded in 2017 to play his last doubles with Spaniard Rafael Nadal and greet the fans. The last few years had been particularly complicated for the former ATP number 1, struggling with a serious injury to his right knee.
Although he underwent three operations, the King was never able to get back in good shape. As the months went by, it had become increasingly clear that the 20-time Grand Slam champion would not be returning to the circuit. Those hoping for one last round of joust at Wimbledon were disappointed, but Roger Federer has repeatedly reiterated that he had no other choice.
During a long interview with CNN, Mike Nakajima, who was the director of the ‘tennis’ department at Nike for many years, reflected on the impact of King Roger. Federer left Nike in the summer of 2018 after a 24-year partnership, signing a 10-year, $300 million contract with Japanese brand Uniqlo.
Nakajima on King Roger
“That should never have happened. For us to let somebody like that go, it’s an atrocity,” Nakajima said in the book. “Roger Federer belonged with Nike for the rest of his career. Just like Michael Jordan.
Like LeBron James, like Tiger Woods. He’s right up there with the all-time greatest Nike athletes ever. I’m still disappointed. But it happened. I have to get over it. It wasn’t my decision and I wasn’t there for it,” he added.
Nike set out to popularize Federer in the US. “I’m a little biased,” said Nakajima. “But no one does marketing better than Nike. When you get the big Nike marketing machine behind you, that can blow that athlete through the stratosphere.
“Roger would have been famous on his own for sure. Even if he was playing for any other brand. But he became a lot bigger because of Nike’s marketing machine. The exposure that Nike can provide to an athlete is amazing.
Obviously, you have to have success on the court, which Roger had. He won a few US Opens; that opened many people’s eyes. Roger got into fashion, meeting Anna Wintour of Vogue, doing photoshoots for GQ,” said Nakajima.
Federer made Wimbledon, the holy grail of tennis, his catwalk. He walked there in an old-school cardigan, a white blazer or long white trousers. He also carried matching accessories.