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Roger Federer ‘s last appearance on a tennis court dates back to the Wimbledon quarter-finals, which he lost painfully to Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-0, on Wimbledon’s Centre Court. From the way he gathered his belongings, looked down at the floor, and waved goodbye to the crowd, the question was inevitable: was this the farewell of the greatest tennis player of all time?
After the sad farewell from the court that saw him triumph eight times, the Swiss kept silent for a few days. The next thing he did was to congratulate Novak Djokovic on winning his 20th Grand Slam, with which the Serb equaled the record that the Swiss had shared with Rafael Nadal since last year. He then confirmed what was already being speculated among the press and fans: his inevitable withdrawal from the Olympic Games.
Since then, the Basel native has only come out to celebrate the victory of his compatriot Belinda Bencic in Tokyo, when she won the gold medal.
His current condition
However, the news that really set the alarm bells ringing occurred on Sunday 15 August. In a 97-second video posted on his Instagram account, the 40-year-old tennis player reported the reality of his current condition.
“I have done a lot of tests with the doctors for my knee in order to have all the information I need. To feel better, I need to have surgery. I will do it. I will be on crutches for weeks and absent for many months,” Federer explained without giving further details about a date for a possible return to competition.
The first direct consequence in the very short term is that Roger Federer will not play in the US Open, which starts on 30 August on the courts of Flushing Meadows in New York.
But in the longer term, the record-holder is well aware of the immense challenge he faces. His age and the toll his body is taking on him after more than 20 years in the game.
“I am a realist, please understand me,” he said. “I know how difficult it is at my age to have another operation.” Then he added: “I will try to get back on the circuit.”
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Two previous operations
Long injury-free during his exceptional career, Roger Federer had a difficult eighteen months during which he spent more time in hospital, on the operating table, rehabbing and training than on the courts.
With two surgeries between February and June 2020, and now on the verge of a third, the Helvetian has only played 20 games since January 2020. His return to the field, if it happens, will not be until several months. It should be noted that nine months elapsed between the second operation and his return to Doha this year. So the augury of another return could be similar.
On a positive tone, Federer declared, “I want to give myself a glimmer of hope to return to the circuit one way or another.” “I know it’s the right thing to do because I want to keep myself in good health, I want to be able to keep playing and stay healthy.”
“I will continue the rehabilitation process also with the aim of staying active, which will help me during this long period,” he said before thanking his fans for their support. He promised to keep them informed after the event and his rehabilitation.
His latest victories
Roger Federer ‘s last Grand Slam title was in Australia 2018. His last victory in a tournament of any kind was in Basel in October 2019. His fans, the most loyal on the circuit, know what it’s like to wait. Especially because they remember other difficult moments in the idol’s career, including a dry spell of majors titles between 2012 and 2017. Then he won three in a hurry, and it was as exciting as when Federer dominated tennis in his best years.
At this stage of the game, Federer has nothing to prove. The other two members of the “Big 3”, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, have now equaled Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles. It’s hard to imagine that both won’t add a few more, especially Djokovic.
The Serbian world number one will enter the US Open with a chance to win a calendar-year Grand Slam, something no male player has achieved since Rod Laver did it for the second time in 1969. On the other hand, young talents such as Alexander Zverev, Daniil Medvedev, and Stefanos Tsitsipas finally look set to make a splash.
Tennis today is in a solid place. Though not as glamorous or stirring as when Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray shared the titles, but in the midst of a transformation.
It would be a significant victory for Federer to return at the age of 40 to play, not for the sake of titles, but for his undoubted passion for tennis. And that will be the greatest reward for the sport in general.
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