Tennis icon Roger Federer provided a glowing tribute to fellow sports legend Lionel Messi.
The pair are regarded as two of the greatest of all time, taking their respective sports to new heights with their grace and artistry, which left many players bamboozled and fans in awe over the years. And it was reflected by tennis great Federer in a message written about Messi in an edition of TIME Magazine.
The 36-year-old – who moved to Inter Miami in the summer after a career in Europe – was included in the ‘Titan’ section of the magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2023, following the greatness he has achieved in football both as a collective and an individual over nearly the last two decades. Finally claiming the World Cup in Qatar when he led his country to glory.
It was left to 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer to write the tribute, coming to the realisation about the pressure elite level sportspeople face on a daily basis.
“What stands out to me about Messi is his consistent greatness over so many years. This is so difficult to achieve, and then maintain,” Federer said. “He dribbles like a magician, and his angular passes are works of art. His awareness and anticipation are almost beyond comprehension. My career has just come to an end. I now realize how much weight we athletes carry.
“But in our daily lives, we don’t even realize it. For a football player like Messi, that weight likely feels more massive, as he represents both a world-renowned club and a very passionate country. Argentina’s World Cup victory was magnificent. Millions of fans’ taking to the streets of Buenos Aires to celebrate was an amazing moment in sports, witnessed around the world. Even those who don’t follow football must have realized the true impact of the world’s most popular game.”
Federer faced a great deal of scrutiny after he burst onto the scene and upset Pete Sampras in the quarter-final at Wimbledon in 2001. At the turn of the millennium tennis had been looking for its newest star and after securing the biggest win of his career against the sport’s greatest player at the time, all eyes were on the emerging Federer.
Two years later, he won his first Wimbledon title and proceeded to dominate the sport for years to come all while being under immense pressure.
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Messi bore the brunt of expectant Barcelona fans for the majority of his career while carrying the burden of ending Argentina’s 36-year wait for a third World Cup title. After years of near misses and underwhelming early exits, at 35 years old the Argentine produced a phenomenal World Cup campaign in Qatar last year to lead his nation to victory.
He is in line for an eighth Ballon d’Or following his exploits for his country, in addition to the excellent start he has made to life at Inter Miami. He has scored 11 goals in just 11 games for the MLS team and helped deliver their first trophy when they defeated Nashville on penalties to win the Leagues Cup.
As Federer, who retired from tennis at the 2022 Laver Cup, continues to watch the greatness of Messi, he ended his message with his verdict on the lasting legacy sport can create.
“Messi can inspire future generations. I can only hope we get to see his unique creativity and artistry for a little bit longer,” Federer added. “Don’t blink too often as Messi performs on the pitch. You may miss something incredible from the man of the moment. Thank you, Leo.”