As Roger Federer prepares for his final ever event at the Laver Cup next weekend, tennis is on standby – and soon the entire sporting world will follow.
The Swiss legend has been the face of tennis for almost two decades – despite sharing the spotlight with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in recent times – and his absence from the circuit will no doubt be felt in years to come.
When the 20-time Grand Slam champion announced he was bowing out on Thursday, it transcended tennis. His retirement was felt by millions, inside and outside the world of sport. After all, this is the man who was once voted the world’s second most respected person after Nelson Mandela.
Tennis legend and 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer has announced his retirement
Whether or not he is venerated as the greatest of all-time, Federer will forever be considered a sporting icon. And his farewell will act, in many ways, as a canary down the mine for several other sports.
Despite dominating for the last 15 to 20 years, a handful of sporting icons will inevitably have to hang up their boots, gloves, clubs and rackets in the very near future – and the world of sport will have to adapt as a result.
Sportsmail has identified 10 iconic sports stars who are nearing the final chapters of their respective careers following Federer’s retirement from tennis…
The 41-year-old star could well be the first of many sporting icons to retire in the next few years
The Portuguese superstar has shared football’s spotlight with Lionel Messi for almost two decades, having first joined at Manchester United in 2003 from Sporting Lisbon.
Five Ballon d’Or awards, 699 club goals and 24 major trophies later, Ronaldo is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever players to grace the football pitch.
In terms of influence off the field, it is hard to consider anyone more prominent off the field in the history of football — the 37-year-old has racked up 477million followers on Instagram alone.
Cristiano Ronaldo won five Ballon d’Or awards before returning to Manchester United last year
However, with the Manchester United star desperate for a move away from Old Trafford this summer, Ronaldo is no doubt keen to optimise the latter stages of his career, with the threat of retirement inevitably on the horizon.
Despite his goal-scoring talents, new Red Devils boss Erik ten Hag has opted to bench the veteran in favour of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and new boy Antony in attack, suggesting he now lacks the body – or perhaps the temperament – to play in a high-octane system.
Waving farewell to Ronaldo in the next few seasons will present football with one of the game’s most high-profile retirements in history.
Ronaldo and Messi are next to each other on multiple illustrious lists and this one is no different.
The Argentine record-breaker has played football with jaw-dropping brilliance throughout his career at Barcelona and PSG, scoring 688 club goals to earn seven Ballon d’Or trophies and 24 major titles.
Comparing the pair in opposition to each other has sparked widespread debate and controversy over the last 15 to 20 years, but as a collective Messi and Ronaldo have been the kings of football for so long and it is strange to consider the sport without them.
Lionel Messi will be hoping to bring the Champions League trophy to Paris before he retires
At 35, Messi is continuing to flourish in Paris with the French champions and will no doubt have set his sights on the elusive Champions League trophy. (Elusive to PSG of course — the former Barca star already has four to his name with the Spanish giants).
Whilst the forward presumably, and hopefully, has a few more years before hanging up his boots, the football world has already started to think about its next generational superstar.
Whether it is in-form Manchester City hitman Erling Haaland, Messi’s talented team-mate Kylian Mbappe or someone else entirely, football is preparing for the coronation of its new king.
Aside from perhaps a few eccentric Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain supporters, Michael Jordan was considered the undisputed greatest basketball player of all-time until ‘King James’ strolled into Cleveland in 2003.
Now, at least there is a discussion to be had.
LeBron has dominated the NBA since his introduction into the league almost two decades ago, currently sitting second on the all-time scoring list behind Abdul-Jabbar, seventh in assists, 10th in steals and fourth in made free-throws.
NBA star LeBron James sits second behind Karim Abdul-Jabbar on the all-time scoring list
Although the 37-year-old has endured two successive seasons of disappointment at the Lakers, crashing out in the first round to Phoenix in 2020-21 and then missing out on the playoffs altogether last campaign, he has still continued to post incredible individual numbers.
LeBron averaged over 30 points per game in Los Angeles last season — but he will be eager to convert this into franchise success as he prepares for what promises to be one of his last seasons in the NBA.
Despite announcing his retirement from the NFL in February, Brady made a sensational U-turn six weeks later to commit to his 23rd season.
The 45-year-old quarterback is widely considered one of the greatest athletes to grace the sport, winning six Super Bowls since his joining the NFL in the 2000 draft.
Despite rejoining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the promise of having ‘unfinished business’ with the franchise, Brady’s days in the NFL are numbered and he is just as likely to call it quits at the end of next season.
Tom Brady announced his retirement from NFL in February before his U-turn six weeks later
However, still showing he has plenty left in the tank, Brady amassed a career-high 5,316 passing yards last campaign.
He also holds the all-time records for passing yards and touchdowns, with 84,520 and 624 respectively.
Whilst he perhaps does not have the same legendary status as Brady, Rodgers is an NFL icon in his own right and will retire one greatest quarterbacks of all-time.
The four-time MVP winner, who has claimed the award in the last two seasons, is in the top 10 for all-time passing yards and leads the league in touchdown to interception ratio.
Aaron Rodgers is a four-time MVP winner having claimed the award in the last two seasons
But stats aside, the 38-year-old will be missed for the personality and character he has brought to the NFL.
In July, Rodgers arrived at the Packers’ training camp dressed as Nicolas Cage’s character in Con Air, sending fans into a frenzy.
NFL will lose two iconic quarterbacks in Brady and Rodgers when the pair retire in the not so distant future.
The 38-year-old arrived at Green Bay Packers’ training camp dressed like Nicolas Cage in July
Despite making a fairytale return to St Andrews in July for the 150th Open, Woods is nearing the end of his sensational career after over 25 years as a professional.
The 15-time major winner carded nine-over-par across his opening two rounds to miss the cut by a distance, but he was cheered on like a champion as he approached the 18th fairway.
Woods’ heartfelt St Andrews moment demonstrated how well-respected and celebrated the 46-year-old remains, despite entering the final stages of his career.
St Andrews cheered jubilantly as Tiger Woods made his fairytale return to The Open in July
The injuries he sustained during a car crash in February 2021, whilst not life-threatening, were enough to force any golfer to call an end to their career. Instead, as the true greats do, Woods battled on.
Whether he bows out tomorrow, or continues to limp from hole to hole as he did in St Andrews, the American will be remembered as one of the greatest of all time.
With 15 in his trophy cabinet, Woods is second in the all-time charts for majors success — behind Jack Nicklaus on 18 — and has conquered 82 official PGA Tour events, topping the tree alongside Sam Snead.
Serena Williams started the retirement domino effect in tennis. Soon after the record-breaking American bowed out at the US Open, Federer called it a day.
Nadal, at least in terms of all-time greats, will surely be next to follow.
Having grappled with Mueller-Weiss Syndrome, a rare and painful foot condition, the Spaniard has put off surgery for longer than is medically advised, in fear that going under the knife would prompt the end of his career.
Rafael Nadal has been suffering with a chronic foot condition called Mueller Weiss Syndrome
Yet, despite his chronic injury, Nadal is continuing to show his Herculean talents on the tennis court, winning both the Australian Open and French Open in 2022.
No male tennis player in history can match the 36-year-old’s Grand Slam tally of 22, although Djokovic remains one behind thanks to his triumph at Wimbledon in July.
Soon after Federer announced his retirement, Nadal penned an emotional tribute to his ‘friend and rival’.
He tweeted: ‘I wish this day would have never come. It’s a sad day for me personally and for sports around the world.’
No doubt sport will echo the same when Nadal calls time.
Perhaps the most iconic Formula One driver in history for his presence and influence both on and off the track, Hamilton will retire nothing short of a legend in sport.
Tied with Michael Schumacher as the most decorated driver of all time, boasting seven driver’s championships since his first triumph in 2008, the 37-year-old has already etched his name firmly into the history books and will likely to continue to change the F1 landscape beyond retirement.
As the first and only black driver in the sport, Hamilton has stood up for diversity and fought to combat racism across sport, leading to his knighthood in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List.
Lewis Hamilton considered retirement at the end of last season before returning for Mercedes
Although the Mercedes star is not clashing wheel to wheel with reigning champion Max Verstappen as he was last season — which famously culminated in him losing the championship in controversial fashion in Abu Dhabi — Hamilton continues to be one of the best drivers on the grid.
After leaving fans in the dark during most of the off-season before returning to the cockpit in March, it would not be a shock to see the F1 icon bow out at the end of this year.
Having acted as a key weapon in England’s bowling attack since his international debut for England in 2003, Anderson will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest ever Test bowlers.
Third on the all-time list of wicket-takers — and top amongst seam bowlers — the 40-year-old has earned an astonishing 667 dismissals for England in just under two decades.
Only Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne have taken more wickets than Jimmy Anderson
Only Sri Lankan off-break bowler Muttiah Muralitharan and Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne eclipse Anderson’s wicket-taking achievements in cricket amongst bowlers.
England tried to plan for life beyond Anderson, dropping him and fellow veteran bowler Stuart Broad earlier this year in an effort to raise the next generation, but the pair were reintroduced to the side under new captain Ben Stokes.
When Anderson finally decides to call it quits, England will lose an exceptional bowler, and world cricket will wave farewell to one of the sport’s most iconic seamers.
Okay, so Mayweather technically retired in 2017 after triumphing against MMA star Conor McGregor. But boxing has not quite said goodbye to the American for good.
Floyd Mayweather has competed in a handful of exhibition fights since his retirement in 2017
Closing out with a phenomenal 50-0 record, dating back to his first bout in 1996, Mayweather racked up twelve world titles as well as the lineal championship in four different weight classes.
However, the 45-year-old fighter has since returned to the ring for a few exhibition fights, facing Tenshin Nasukawa in 2018, YouTuber Logan Paul in 2021 and Don Moore earlier this year.
Whilst the professional circuit has already come to terms with Mayweather’s departure — and in many ways moved on since his retirement to crown new superstars in Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk — it will no doubt be a strange moment when the all-time great steps into the ring for the final time.