“In the mid-2000s, Roger was almost unbeatable – it was pretty much just Rafa [Nadal] that can get itespecially on clay, but most of all he’s been a great ambassador for our sport,” said Hewitt, who has played Federer 27 times, winning nine.
“He deserved to get out on his own terms. It would be special for him to play another Wimbledon, but it’s not easy at his age. He did everything he could dream of in sports.”
Australian number one Alex de Minaur, fresh from winning the Davis Cup against France’s Benjamin Bonzi 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, hailed the “flawless genius on court”, recalling how he played Federer in the 2019 final tournament in his hometown in Basel and won 6-2, 6-2.
“Yeah, nice little lesson. I was stupid enough to think I had a real chance to win. I just remember being completely overwhelmed, he was just on another level.
“I tried six or seven different game plans, but mostly I was at his mercy. Still, it was a cool experience, one of the few times I walked off the court thinking, “You know what, too good.”
“It was actually fun to learn from Roger.
“He’s an icon of our sport, one of the guys I looked up to, and I’m pretty sure every person on the planet looked up to. If you grow up and you don’t want to be like him, you don’t have much of an idea about tennis.”
The Australians paid tribute to the Swiss master after they all but booked their place in the Davis Cup final with their emphatic triumph against France. A never-say-die singles victory from de Minaur and a second doubles masterclass from Matt Ebden and Max Purcell secured a 2-1 victory and gave the unbeaten Aussies maximum points from two matches in Hamburg this week.
Jelena Dokic, world junior champion while Federer ruled the game at the junior level, told Nine: “It wasn’t just the greatness of his tennis, it was how humble he was, how sweet he was, what an inspiration he was .
“I always look at people, how they are behind the scenes, on the training grounds or in the locker room, and there is no one nicer than Roger Federer. He would be very nice to you.
“We’ll always talk about what a great tennis player he is, but it’s important to say what a great person he is.”