Curtain call

Last tango in London (L to R): Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray.

I'm wearing one of my Roger Federer caps today – yes, I'm a nerd, I have them in two different colors – to mark that man's retirement from professional tennis. He and his doubles partner, Rafael Nadal, were defeated in a nail-biter at the Laver Cup in London Friday night. It was the last match of Federer's remarkable career. His knees are done at age 41.

I first got into watching the stars of tennis in my high school days, when a few of my friends played the sport competitively. Back then there were Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Ilie Nastase, Billie Jean King, Chrissie Evert, Martina Navratilova, Evonne Goolagong, so many greats. But right about the time that Americans stopped winning, I stopped watching, and the sport fell off my radar screen for many decades.

In the mid- to late-2010's, I happened to watch a Wimbledon tournament, which was even greater viewing than I remembered, and I noticed that there was a cable channel on which high-caliber tennis was being played every day. And nobody was playing it any better than Federer. Next thing I knew, I was hooked, and I haven't stopped following the game since. I even made a pilgrimage to Wimbledon myself a while back to tour the legendary facility.

When I checked back into tennis after so many years away, what drew me in especially was how the Swiss maestro's humility, class, and respect for his opponents outshone even his monumental agility and smarts on the court. With the Rolex watches and the billion-dollar endorsement empire, he was one smooth operator. I soon picked up an equally impressive, but slightly different, vibe from Nadal, of whom I am also in awe. But I have only one Nadal cap, not two.

I can never explain to people why I am so mesmerized by tennis on TV. I just am. But among the men, Federer has always been a particularly compelling show, even for casual spectators. He will be missed on the court. At least we can look forward to seeing what he does with the rest of his incredible life.