Roger Federer, the World’s Best Tennis Player, Died in his Sleep

Roger Federer, a genius who made tennis look effortless, a master of the game, and an international icon, died after a long illness on Saturday, his family said. He was 79.

“Roger lost his battle with cancer. He died in his sleep last night at 9:45 p.m.,” his wife, Serena Williams, said in a statement. “With great love and immense sadness, I extend my sincere sympathy to his wife, their three children, and to all of his countless friends and supporters. Roger was a champion and a joy to be around. I am proud to say he was the father of our children and the grandfather of our grandbaby.”

The family did not give details of his illness. Tennis has lost a leader and a legend in Williams.

Federer, a three-time Wimbledon finalist, who led the men’s side to five Wimbledon titles, had a prodigious talent that was impossible to quantify but was clear as day: He was the best player on earth. When he was healthy, he was unbeatable. He was an athletic perfectionist who had to be coached. But when he missed a match or two, he would become angry; when he won, he became even more passionate.

Federer’s story is a riveting one. Born in Yugoslavia in 1941, the son of a general during World War II, he moved to Switzerland as a boy and started playing tennis there. He was 14, playing for a tennis club in his hometown, and he had a wrist injury that would haunt him for the rest of his life. He was about to leave on a tennis trip to the Caribbean when his mother, who was ill, asked him to play in a tournament. Federer did, and won.

“You can imagine how disappointed I was that I won,” Federer said in 2011, when he was 34. “I thought it was the last time I would ever hear my

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