Life ain't bad for Roger Federer post-retirement. The tour has adjusted seamlessly without him, too. Assessing the state of tennis one year after his emotional farewell to the game.

Roger Federer has now been retired from tennis for one full year. His retirement at Laver Cup 2022 shook the tennis world and even percolated in the larger daily news cycle.

This wasn’t just an all-time great tennis player retiring. This was the tennis player retiring.

Federer became the singular icon of tennis, a la Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Pelé, Tom Brady, and Tiger Woods. Roger holds that spot for tennis. The best. The one. The icon.

So how has tennis fared in his absence?

Quite well, actually.

What remains of the Big Four?

The day will come when this Golden Era in tennis comes to an end, and Roger’s retirement set that course in motion.

Roger Federer, 42, is doing just fine. We’ll get to him in a moment.

Andy Murray, 36, sort of started the exodus in 2019 when he unofficially retired, but he installed a new metal hip and has managed to return to the tour and is competing valiantly against all odds. He has had some inspirational moments on the court this year, gritting out victories he has no business winning, but never can manage to string them together. His spirit is strong while his body is compromised.

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Andy Murray training in Shanghai

Rafael Nadal, 37, limped out in the second round of the Australian Open due to a hip injury and hasn’t been seen on a court since. We knew it was bad when he withdrew from the French Open, where he owns 14 titles. Nadal had arthroscopic surgery in May to repair his hip flexor, and has essentially announced that 2024 will be his final year on tour. The tennis gods’ new job is to keep him healthy for one more year so he can make a full round of what will surely be many emotional goodbyes.

Novak Djokovic, 36, hasn’t missed a beat. All he did in 2023 was reel off three more Grand Slam titles to reach 24 total, tying himself with Margaret Court for most majors all-time, man or woman. Expect him to take over sole possession next year.

Djokovic will almost certainly be the last man standing of the Big Four. He looks to have another 4-5 good years in him, and the final brushstroke of his masterful career will be to bridge the generations like Agassi before him, who held on the longest out of his own remarkable peer group.

Who is competing for Slams?

With Roger gone, Rafa on the DL, and Murray a partial version of his former self, who is left competing for Slams? Well, essentially two guys with a few hopefuls on the side.

Novak is still the guy to beat, and he proved that emphatically by winning three of the four Slams and reaching the finals in Wimbledon, where he lost to…

…Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz is the new counterweight in tennis. Already an entire generation is preparing to be measured against Alcaraz for the next 15-20 years. And already Alcaraz is facing expectations that he’ll be able to reach twenty majors like Rafa, Roger, and Novak were able to do—against each other. They have 66 Grand Slams between them, a ludicrous number by any measure.

It is not fair to expect Carlos Alcaraz to win twenty majors, but that is what Roger and the boys did to the sport. They lifted it up. Took it to new heights. Raised the bar.

And Alcaraz’s talent is so enormous that we think he can get there. That’s how good he is. Working in his favor (at least for now) is the fact that no other competitors in his generation look like they’ll be able to consistently stop him from hogging all the trophies.

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Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic pose after the Wimbledon trophy ceremony

At 20 years old, he is already halfway to a career Grand Slam, with US Open and Wimbledon trophies sitting on his mantle. The fact that his Wimbledon championship came at the expense of Novak Djokovic is significant because it definitively inserted him into the conversation with the Big Four on the scales of history.

Alcaraz will never play Federer, may not ever play a high-profile match with Rafa, and certainly won’t face Murray in his prime, but Novak is a proxy for the Big Four, and Alcaraz has already notched a proof-positive win there.

The two most formidable Slam contenders after that are Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner, who is progressing at a fearsome rate.

Grand Slam distribution will soon regress to the mean. More players will share the loot, as was the norm before the Big Four laid their stranglehold on them.

Is there a void?

One of the main concerns with the Golden Era coming to an end is whether or not it will leave a void in the sport. Tennis has become accustomed to greatness, dominance, grit, and beauty over the last twenty years, so it is natural to wonder what it will look like without those four men.

Will there be a dropoff in quality, fan interest, media attention, rivalries, or suspense? The answer appears to be no. With Rafa injured and Murray unable to reliably reach the second week of Grand Slams, 2023 gave us a preview of life after the Big Four.

Novak will be around for a few more years and he shows no signs of decline. Alcaraz is the obvious torchbearer for the sport’s future. His flashy game and joyful smile are adored by the fans. Tennis is lucky that he appeared when he did.

Viewership and attendance at Grand Slams actually increased in 2023.

A successful Netflix series called Break Point debuted chronicling professional tennis behind the scenes, making stars of several Top 20 players fighting to break through.

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Jannik Sinner and Daniil Medvedev pose after the China Open trophy ceremony

And importantly, the next generation of players has taken the stage to fill that second tier. The likes of Holger Rune, Jannik Sinner, and Ben Shelton are popping up alongside still-youthful contenders like Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev, and Alexander Zverev to spice up every draw.

It seems we can safely put to rest any concerns we have about tennis becoming dull once the game’s giants leave the court.

When Rafael Nadal withdrew from the French Open this year, he laid the situation out perfectly:

“Of course [in] the tournament [there are] going to be super interesting matches that I will be happy to follow and my speech [is not] going to change now [from] a couple of years ago when Novak didn’t play in Australia,” Nadal said. “Tournaments stay forever. Players play and leave, so Roland Garros will be always Roland Garros with or without me, without a doubt.

“The tournament is going to keep being the the best event in the world of clay and there is going to be one Roland Garros champion. It’s not going to be me, [there is] going to be another one and that’s life.”

What has Roger been up to?

Roger Federer might be the most affable, approachable, down-to-earth international spy who has ever lived.

He tuxedoes himself to co-host the Met Gala with Penelope Cruz, Dua Lipa, and Anna Wintour, where he mingles with Patrick Mahomes and Pierpaolo Piccioli, the creative director of Italian fashion house Valentino, then stops for New York style cheese pizza on the way home.

He visits South Africa to promote The Roger Federer Foundation, which supports preschool education for communities in Southern Africa and Switzerland. The foundation marked its 20th anniversary this year.

Paris Fashion Week gets a pit stop, as does a Bruce Springsteen show and jamming onstage with Coldplay in Zurich (Federer on the shaker).

Sneak in a hero’s welcome at Wimbledon where he sat in the Royal Box with Kate Middleton to watch former rival Andy Murray.

Roger receives a two-minute standing ovation in Wimbledon return as a spectator

Then he participates in the UN General Assembly in New York to promote his foundation again before skipping west to Vancouver for the Laver Cup.

Sprinkle in a few more celebrities here and there: Elton John, David Beckham, Dirk Nowitski, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose, Henrik Lundqvist, Jon Bon Jovi, the Jonas Brothers. The vibe you get from most of his celebrity pics is that the other celebs are more excited to meet him than vice versa.

Arguably the single most marketable athlete in the world (his off-field income ranks highest of anyone), much of his time is spent tending to business responsibilities.

His 3% ownership stake and partnership with running shoe company On has been a wild success, and he wears his own line of On shoes in nearly all of his public events. They’re sharp, even for black tie events.

This year, On signed Iga Swiatek and Ben Shelton as their first brand ambassadors in tennis.

Federer often pairs his Ons with Uniqlo street apparel, with whom he still has five years remaining on a 10-year contract.

His management agency Team8 had a big summer with Coco Gauff’s US Open victory and Ben Shelton’s US Open and Laver Cup breakout events.

And of course, that brings us back to the Laver Cup. The place where Roger hung his racket up one year ago.

Yes, Roger Federer maintains a steady public presence despite leaving the tour. His Instagram feed keeps tabs on his charmed life spent jetsetting, hobnobbing, promoting, philanthropying, art-exhibiting, and family-timing.

Still, it’s when he reappears on the tennis stage that means the most.

The Laver Cup—his own creation, mind you—is the perfect annual vehicle to bring him back home. Once a year is the perfect cadence. Not too much, not too little. The sport gets to see him interact with the best players in the world again, he gets to continue building a new tennis legacy, and everyone wins.

One day he’ll captain Team Europe, and we’ll even get to see him compete again.

Safe bet he’ll be well-dressed.