Roger Federer is not only one of the greatest tennis players of all time, but one of the greatest athletes too. The way he kick-started this thrilling era of competitiveness in Grand Slam tennis as its pioneer will leave a lasting legacy on the sport. However, it sadly feels like we are fast approaching the date where the final curtain will descend on his glorious career.
The court legend’s coach Ivan Ljubicic announced that the Swiss Maestro felt he would not be fit enough to compete at the Australian Open in January, but insisted that Federer is still determined to return to tournament action in the near future. Federer has been out of action since July after undergoing his third round of knee surgery in 18 months.
Ljubicic told Sky Sports: “Roger Federer is very unlikely to play the Australian Open. He is 40 and doesn’t recover as fast as before. But he wants to compete again and won’t retire all of a sudden. We will be able to see Roger again next year. I don’t know when exactly, but he is undergoing rehabilitation. He is recovering slowly, he is not in a hurry.”
His absence would carry the 40-year-old past the six-month mark since he was last in competitive action - the quarter-finals of Wimbledon where he was defeated by Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz. It is a worrying time for the 20-time Grand Slam champion as injuries and age are starting to catch up with him and it is now looking like he is holding off the inevitable.
While it’s all good to say he’s waiting for the right moment to make his return after surgery, he will have gone more than half a year without playing competitively and will no doubt be out of form upon his grand return. What he is going through right now is what fellow 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal suffered with in his late 20s when he was plagued with chronic injury. But the truth is, this is what is expected for a professional tennis player to be experiencing once they hit the big 4-0, and Federer’s body simply won’t be able to perform at the highest level anymore.
With him being deemed unlikely to make January’s Australian Open two months before it commences, Federer’s time on court is going to become more sporadic as he edges closer to retirement. It is credit to his character that he wishes to go on until he physically can’t, but at what cost? There will be plenty more setbacks, surgery and rehabilitation for the odd Grand Slam or tournament. It may be in his best interests to earmark a particular tournament, probably Wimbledon, and view it as his grand farewell. For supporters as well as him, it would be the perfect way for both parties to bid farewell to each other and it would give this gargantuan star the send-off he deserves.
The worst way for his career to end would be away from the court, or with an underwhelming early exit at a tournament. If he wishes to have the last hurrah that he will desperately want, there will be several variables that will need to match up for him to judge when the best time would be to give his last commanding performance. Giving his fans an exciting show to bow out with will leave his legacy immortalised.
Federer was the architect of the modern tennis era and without him, the likes of Nadal and Novak Djokovic wouldn’t have been pushed to their limits to match and emulate the Swiss star and thus light the fuse for this holy triumvirate of tennis superstars. Their intense professional rivalry has seen them all win a record 20 Grand Slam titles each in what has been the most entertaining era the sport has ever seen. Whenever he hangs up his racquet, King Roger will be sorely missed.