Roger Federer has opened up about life after retirement, making a staggering confession about how the gruelling nature of the tennis tours is leading to young players like Ash Barty calling it quits early. Federer played his final professional match at the Laver Cup in September, bidding an emotional farewell to the sport after a stellar career that saw him win 20 grand slam titles.
Australian star Barty also announced her retirement earlier this year, walking away from professional tennis at age 25 after winning Wimbledon in 2021 and the Australian Open in January.
Speaking at an event in Tokyo on Saturday, the 41-year-old Federer said he believes the intense tennis tour schedule is having a negative impact on the mental health of players and forcing them to retire at an early age.
"When players retire at a super young age, I totally understand it," the Swiss legend told a press conference in Tokyo. "We see it from time to time. I always feel it's such a pity, because there could still be so much going on in the future. The tour is tough... travel, practice, jetlag.
"Nobody is allowed to say, 'Oh, I'm tired today', because it looks like you're weak, and that's why players end up having sometimes mental problems. You're supposed to show strength. But we're also not machines, we’re also just human beings."
A number of tennis professionals have spoken out about their mental health struggles in recent times, including Naomi Osaka and Nick Kyrgios. Barty shocked the tennis world when she retired from the sport less than two months after winning the 2022 Australian Open, after taking a break from tennis earlier in her career.
Federer added that strict doping requirements also put pressure on players, who have to inform relevant authorities about their whereabouts on a daily basis.
"We have to fill out the doping forms every single day, one hour during the day, where you are," the 41-year-old Swiss 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 realise that stress all drops away."
Federer played on the tour for 25 years before calling it a day, and he is making the most of being able to finally relax, saying: "As a tennis player you're always thinking about your next practice, your next match. It never lets you go."
Ash Barty has no plans to return to tennis
Barty has been emphatic when asked about the possibility of making a comeback to professional sport - even if she did leave the door open ever so slightly in a recent interview.
"Nope, I'm done. You can never say never but no. No, no, no. I'm done," Barty told AAP while promoting her new memoir 'My Dream Time'. "I miss competing and challenging myself against the best of the world but I don't miss a lot that comes with it. I'm still competitive with myself when I train at home. I still try and push myself but there's no white-line fever any more.
"And I never really felt like there was this void that needed to be filled in because there was a genuine sense of fulfilment at the end of my career. I don't think I was still searching for the competitive beast anymore."
The Queenslander explained that her retirement is very different to a break she took in 2014, when she walked away from tennis after feeling homesick, disillusioned and dissatisfied.
"During that period of my life (while) playing cricket, I was searching. I was searching for stimulation, I was searching for other things," she said. "But now I don't need that. Now I have probably understood and realised that I've had an extremely full, fulfilling, incredible journey in my athletic and professional career and now it's time to close that chapter. Now it's the beginning of a completely new chapter in my life and we see what's possible as opposed to searching for what's missing."
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