The 20-time grand-slam champion could not bring the curtain down with one final competitive victory after losing 4-6 7-6 (2) 11-9 alongside doubles partner Rafael Nadal to Team World pair Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe at the Laver Cup.
Both Federer and Nadal were in tears at the conclusion of a two hour and 14 minute battle that saw the former world number ones squander match point much to the disappointment of a buoyant 17,500-capacity crowd.
Not that the final result mattered with standing ovations afforded to the 41-year-old throughout his ‘last dance’ and plenty of highlights, including a 116mph ace and one sensational drop shot winner in the deciding tie-breaker.
Federer had announced last week the doubles contest on night one of the Laver Cup, the Ryder Cup-style team competition he set up, would be his last on the ATP Tour but the door has been left open for more chances to see him on tennis courts around the world, just not in a professional capacity.
“I have no plans whatsoever like where, how, when. All I know is I would love to go and play places I have never played before or go say thank yous for years to come to all the people that have been so supportive of me,” he said during a press conference that did not finish until after 2am on Saturday.
“Because the hard part about the Laver Cup was that tickets were already sold out. You know, the people who maybe would have also loved to be here couldn’t make it.
“Maybe there is another way down the stretch we can party all together.”
Defeat on a comeback was finally admitted publicly by Federer last week after a succession of operations during the last two and a half years on his right knee proved unsuccessful.
It meant the final singles contest of his career occurred at Wimbledon last year, where he lost in the quarter-finals to Hubert Hurkacz, but he insisted retirement, which he settled on last month, was no longer a scary concept.
He added: “I was able to remind myself always on the court again how wonderful this is.
“This is not the end, end, you know, life goes on. I’m healthy, I’m happy, everything’s great and this is just a moment in time. This is obviously supposed to be like this.
“Weeks ago, for a fact, I was so scared of this moment that it really worried me.”
While Federer was emotional during his on-court interview, where he paid tribute to his wife Mirka, he was happy to bow out with a friend by his side in Nadal.
The duo shared a long embrace after Sock’s winner had confirmed defeat before they were in tears after a retirement video had been shown on the big screens and followed by a performance from British singer Ellie Goulding.
“To be not alone on that court for an entire evening, it helped a lot,” Federer admitted.
Nadal, who will forever hold a 26-14 upper-hand over Federer in singles’, talked in depth about their “beautiful” friendship.
“Wow, difficult. I have to say that first couple of serves for me were super difficult,” the Spaniard said.
“I was shaking a little bit. Has been a difficult day to handle every single thing and at the end everything became super emotional.
“For me, it has been a huge honour to be a part of this amazing moment of the history of our sport and at the same time a lot of years sharing a lot of things together.
“When Roger leaves the tour, yeah, an important part of my life is leaving too.
“On court we have completely opposite styles and that’s what probably makes our matches and our rivalry probably one of the biggest and most interesting.
“But in the family life, personal life, probably we approach life not in a very different way, no? So that’s why we can trust each other, we can speak very often and we’re able to speak very feeling free, feeling confident.
“Having somebody like Roger that I feel confident to talk about any personal thing, it’s something that is very beautiful after all the things that we shared together and all the important things that we fought for such a long time.”