Roger Federer on Thursday withdrew from next week’s Dubai ATP tournament, claiming “it’s best to go back to training” as his comeback from 13 months on the sidelines ended after two matches at the Qatar Open.
The 39-year-old was knocked out of the Doha event by world number 42 Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia, squandering a match point in the deciding set.
“It’s been great to be back on the @atptour, loved every minute playing in Doha once again,” tweeted the 20-time Grand Slam title winner.
Roger Federer won his first match contested in over a year Wednesday as the 20-time Grand Slam champion returned from injury to beat British number one Dan Evans at the Qatar Open.
Federer, who underwent two knee surgeries in 2020, still proved a tough opponent for an in-form Evans who ultimately succumbed 7-6 (10/8), 3-6, 7-5 after an epic tussle lasting two hours and 24 minutes.
The Swiss great had not played a match since a semi-final defeat by Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open in January 2020 — 405 days ago — and acknowledged it was unusual for a player of his age to return after injury.
“I don’t know if it was ever completely pain free,” Federer said. “You get to feel tired and you dont know if it’s the muscle.
“(What’s) important is how I feel tomorrow and the next day for the next six months.”
Federer joked with the umpire at the coin toss about the rules of the sport during Covid-19, having not played since the ATP Tour was suspended last year due to the pandemic.
The 39-year-old had to battle, saving a set point against a player who was a recent training partner.
In the third set, Federer failed to win his first match point.
On the second match point, however, Federer proved too much for his opponent, sealing his comeback win with a backhand down the line, to huge applause.
“I was tired — I was more focused on being tired than winning the point,” he said.
“Dan had more energy left at the end. I thought I played a really, really good match.”
Federer had received a rapturous welcome from the 20 percent-capacity crowd at Doha’s Khalifa Tennis Complex, beaming back at the fans, some of whom brandished portraits of the Swiss star while others held his national colours aloft.
Federer, the tournament second seed, faced a break point at 4-4 in the opening set but was able to pull it back.
Evans secured two points in a row against the Federer serve in the tie-break but the former world number one proved unstoppable, winning the first set in 49 minutes on his third set point.
Evans, 30, said after the match “it was clear he’d been off but (he) showed a lot of glimpses of why he’s so good”.
While Federer was out of action, Rafael Nadal equalled his men’s record Grand Slam title haul with a 13th Roland Garros triumph.
– ‘Long and tough road’ – Djokovic, meanwhile, captured a ninth Australian Open last month to take his career Slam tally to 18.
Federer has insisted his recovery from knee surgery was “completely under control” ahead of his return to competitive tennis.
“It’s been a long and tough road for me,” he said Wednesday.
“To come back at my age is not very simple.”
Federer will turn 40 in August and said that he was hoping to be back to “100 percent” for Wimbledon in June but had not taken decisions on tournaments before then or the Tokyo Olympics.
Federer is an eight-time Wimbledon winner but has yet to win a singles gold at the Olympics.
“Most people would probably hope he wins another, Wimbledon… we’d be pretty pumped if he got over the line at another Slam,” Evans said.
Federer had said that while he was disappointed not to be returning to a full house because of Qatar’s strict coronavirus measures, he was happy to have some fans.
“It was worth it because I played a great match today,” he said.
Federer, who has 103 career titles and is just six back from Jimmy Connors’ record, said that the complications that followed his two knee surgeries motivated him to get back in form.
The Herald said Federer could play in Dubai after Doha but would then take a training break.
Federer’s withdrawal is a blow to organizers of the Miami tournament, who were forced to cancel last year’s event as Covid-19 chaos left sport in North America at a standstill.
The pandemic has already impacted the 2021 calendar, delaying the Australian Open and forcing the Indian Wells tournament in California — the traditional lead-in to the Miami Open — out of its usual slot in March.
Miami is still expected to feature a strong field despite Federer’s withdrawal, with world number one Novak Djokovic and 20-time Grand Slam-winner Rafael Nadal confirmed for the men’s draw.
Serena Williams and newly minted Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka are also slated to appear in the women’s draw.
World number one Novak Djokovic said the future of men’s tennis was in good hands Tuesday, praising the new generation for showing “courage and boldness” in their pursuit of Grand Slam glory.
Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have dominated the sport over the past 15 years, holding a vice-like grip on the major titles, with 57 between them.
But their reign is being threatened, with Dominic Thiem winning the US Open last year and the likes of Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas knocking on the door.
With the big three getting older, 17-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic said it was good to see the next generation performing well.
“It’s great for the sport that we have new Grand Slam champions,” he said after leading Serbia to a 2-1 win over Canada in the ATP Cup.
“We have new successful young players that are showing the courage and boldness, coming into the biggest stadiums in sport, willing to take on the biggest challenge in facing especially the three of us, fighting for the biggest title.
“There are a few of them that are very close. They have huge potential. Obviously there’s still a lot of time ahead of them.”
He pointed to Greece’s Tsitsipas, Germany’s Zverev, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov and Italy’s Matteo Berrettini as capable of breaking through.
“You have a lot of players. I think the future of tennis is in good hands, without a doubt,” he said.
Djokovic, who will attempt to win an unprecedented ninth Australian Open title when the tournament begins next week, added that once players got over the hurdle of winning a first Slam, it got easier.
“I know how it feels working your way up in the men’s tennis world, trying to clinch the first Grand Slam title,” he said.
“It’s climbing Mount Everest kind of experience until you do it. Then when you reach that, when you achieve such a great achievement, then of course there’s a huge kind of burden and monkey off your back. After that, you’re entering a new era of your career.”
But Djokovic isn’t ready to relinquish his crown just yet, adding with a smile: “Rafa, Roger and myself are going to make sure that doesn’t happen for another 10 years at least.”
He underwent keyhole surgery on his right knee in February, before needing a follow-up operation and calling off his season to recover.
The Swiss could only watch as Rafael Nadal matched his all-time men’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles with a 13th victory at the French Open.
Federer will now concentrate on getting himself ready for the rest of the 2021 season, which includes the Tokyo Olympics and the chance of his first singles gold medal.
“He has made strong progress in the last couple of months with his knee and his fitness,” his agent Tony Godsick said in a statement.
“I will start discussions this coming week for tournaments that begin in late February and then start to build a schedule for the rest of the year,” Godsick added.
– Murray wildcard –
Federer’s absence will be felt at the Australian Open, despite a top-quality field led by world number ones Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty.
US superstar Serena Williams, Federer’s contemporary at 39, is also on the entry list as she again attempts to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24-time Grand Slam singles titles.
Federer’s withdrawal comes as former world number one Andy Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist, was given a wildcard entry.
Tiley welcomed the 33-year-old back to the tournament, two years after his first-round exit prompted fears his career was at an end.
“Seeing him come back, having undergone major surgery and built himself back up to get onto the tour again, will be a highlight,” Tiley said.
The opening Slam of the year, which will be played in front of at least 50 percent of normal crowds, has been pushed back three weeks to February 8 over difficulties caused by the coronavirus.
All players must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival, during which they will constantly be tested for Covid-19 but allowed to train for five hours a day in a bio-secure bubble.
The men’s and women’s qualifiers will be held in Doha and Dubai respectively from January 10-13, with players arriving in Melbourne from January 15 on special charter flights.
Melbourne only emerged from a months-long lockdown in October following a second wave of Covid-19, complicating planning for the Grand Slam and how to allow so many players and support staff to enter the country safely.
Australia has largely contained the coronavirus, although a new outbreak in Sydney has sparked fresh restrictions in parts of the city and even state border closures.
Second-seed Rafael Nadal, seeking his first win at the elite eight-man event, will face Medvedev in the other semi-final after finishing second in Group London 2020.
Djokovic broke Germany’s Zverev at the first time of asking in the empty stadium and raced into a 3-0 lead, threatening to run away with the match — a repeat of the 2018 final, which Zverev won in straight sets.
The 33-year-old looked focused after his uncharacteristic mauling by Medvedev, serving himself out of trouble when he found himself trailing 15-40 in the seventh game.
That proved to be the last chance for Zverev in the set and 17-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic hammered a backhand winner down the line to take it 6-3.
Djokovic handed Zverev a break point in the fourth game of the second set after double-faulting but the German could not capitalise.
The 23-year-old fifth seed saved two break points on his serve in the following game, letting out a roar as he kept his nose in front.
The set went to a tie-break. Zverev earned an early mini-break but Djokovic levelled and the pressure was back on the German, who faltered to hand the Serbian victory.
The top seed said he had managed to find the right shots at the right time, in contrast to his performance against Medvedev, saying it was “anybody’s game for most of the match”.
He said Thiem, who won his first Grand Slam at the US Open in September, would be a tough opponent.
“Obviously earlier in his career he played his best on clay but of course being one of the hardest workers on the tour, the most dedicated players, Dominic found his ‘A’ game on all other surfaces,” added Djokovic.
“His first Slam came on hard courts earlier this year in New York. I played him last year here — I lost 7-6 in the third set. It was really a thrilling match. Hopefully we can have another great match but this time with a different outcome.”
Djokovic, who recently equalled Pete Sampras’s record of six year-end world number one finishes, has the chance to end the coronavirus-truncated 2020 season on a high by joining the absent Federer on six titles.
Medvedev will take on eighth-seed Diego Schwartzman, in the evening match, which is a dead rubber.
The O2 Arena is hosting the event for the 12th and final season before the championships move to Turin.
Roger Federer is talking optimistically about returning to his “highest level” after knee surgery, but does tennis have to start adjusting to a future without the Swiss star?
The 20-time Grand Slam winner announced on Wednesday that he would be sidelined until 2021 after his second operation in a matter of months.
Federer remains upbeat, tweeting: “I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.”
In some ways, 2020 is a good season to miss after the coronavirus ravaged the tennis schedule.
Writing Federer off in the past has proved dangerous.
He returned from a six-month injury lay-off to claim the Australian Open in 2017, winning his eighth Wimbledon crown later that year.
But he will be 40 in 2021 and is now heading into uncharted territory.
Despite his groaning trophy cabinet, there are two factors that will motivate Federer to keep going — the risk of losing his grip on the men’s Grand Slam title record and a missing Olympics singles gold medal.
Rafael Nadal has 19 majors, just one shy of Federer’s mark and Djokovic has 17.
Spain’s Nadal will be fancied to draw level with Federer at the French Open, rescheduled for September, while few would bet against Djokovic winning in New York weeks earlier.
In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.
Last year he fell agonisingly short at the All England Club, failing to convert two championship points on his own serve against Djokovic.
The Wimbledon grass probably remains his best chance of adding to his Grand Slam collection — he has not won the US Open since 2008 and his only title at Roland Garros came in 2009.
Even though Federer has slipped from the very pinnacle of the game, he is still a major threat to Nadal and Djokovic.
– ‘Golden’ ambitions –
Last year, the world number four had a 53-10 win-loss record and he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open in January in his only tournament this year.
Federer, who is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 109, has one glaring omission from his CV — the Olympic title.
The Swiss won doubles gold in Beijing in 2008 with compatriot Stan Wawrinka but lost in the singles final to Andy Murray in London four years later.
The postponed Tokyo Games will almost certainly be Federer’s last opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — he will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony next year.
Tennis will feel the loss of the elegant Federer keenly when he walks off the court for the last time.
Djokovic and Nadal have been the dominant forces in recent years but the Swiss remains the biggest draw and last month topped Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-earning athletes.
His last appearance on court was in front of nearly 52,000 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in February.
Federer is nearly always the crowd favourite wherever he plays and has proved a perfect ambassador for the sport since he won his first Grand Slam title in 2003.
He certainly expects to be back and competitive next year.
“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season,” he tweeted.
The avalanche of support from his adoring fans showed they would miss him too, but they will have to get used to a time when he is gone for good.
Roger Federer topped the 2020 Forbes magazine list of highest-paid global athletes announced Friday, leading the lineup for the first time with pre-tax earnings of $106.3 million (95.5 million euros).
The Swiss tennis legend, a men’s record 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, becomes the first player from his sport atop the annual list since its 1990 debut, rising from fifth in 2019.
Federer’s haul over the past 12 months included $100 million from appearances fees and endorsement deals plus $6.3 million in prize money. His previous best showing was second in 2013.
“His brand is pristine, which is why those that can afford to align with him clamor to do so,” University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told the magazine.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic that shut down sports worldwide caused the first decline since 2016 in the total income of the world’s 100 top-paid athletes, a 9% dip from last year to $3.6 billion. Another plunge is expected next year from the shutdown.
Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo was second on the list at $105 million, $60 million in salary and $45 million from endorsements, with Argentine football hero Lionel Messi third on $104 million, $32 million of that from sponsorship deals.
Messi and Ronaldo, who have traded the top spot three of the past four years, saw their combined incomes dip $28 million from last year due to salary cuts when European clubs halted play in March.
Brazilian footballer Neymar was fourth overall on $95.5 million, $25 million from endorsements, while NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was fifth on $88.2 million, $60 million of that from endorsements.
NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was sixth on $74.4 million with former teammate Kevin Durant next on $63.9 million.
Tiger Woods, the reigning Masters champion and a 15-time major winner, was eighth on the list and tops among golfers at $62.3 million, all but $2.3 million from sponsor deals.
Woods topped the Forbes list a record 12 times before an infidelity scandal helped end his run.
Two NFL quarterbacks rounded out the top 10 with Kirk Cousins ninth at $60.5 million and Carson Wentz 10th on $59.1 million.
The top 100 featured athletes from 21 nations and 10 sports. More NBA players made the list than those from any other sport at 35, but 31 NFL players made the cut, up from 19 from last year, and they pulled down the most money of any league, aided by finishing the season before the deadly virus outbreak.
Major League Baseball, whose start to the 2020 campaign was postponed by the virus outbreak, put only one player on the list after 15 in 2019. The lone MLB player was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who was 57th at $27.3 million with only $750,000 from endorsements.
Spanish footballer Carlos Ramos, the Real Madrid captain, was last among the 100 on $21.8 million, including $3 million in endorsements.
Two women, tennis stars Naomi Osaka of Japan and Serena Williams of the United States, made the list, the most females on it since 2016. Osaka ranked 29th overall on $37.4 million ($34 million in endorsements), four spots ahead of Williams with $36 million ($32 million in endorsements).
Federer pitchman magic
Federer, 38, boasts the biggest sponsorship lineup among active athletes with Moet & Chandon and Barilla among those paying from $3 to $30 million to link him with their brands.
Federer, who spent a record 310 weeks as world number one, reached 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals from 2005-2010.
Only Woods has joined Federer in making $100 million in sponsor deals in a single year.
Federer’s newest deal is with Swiss running shoe On, where he is an investor, but several sponsors have been with him for more than a decade, including Rolex, Credit Suisse, Mercedes-Benz, and Wilson.
A split with Nike in 2018 opened Federer to Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo’s 10-year deal worth $300 million.
“To have 51,954 people in attendance at a tennis match, I never thought I’d be a part of something like that,” said Federer. “It’s not something you dream about.
Federer, who was accompanied by his South African mother, Lynette, said his first appearance in South Africa was a special occasion.
“The first time here in Cape Town, in South Africa, means so much more than just tennis,” he said.
Federer won 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a match in which the players had to contend with cool, windy conditions in the stadium that was built for the 2010 football World Cup.
The arena was packed with eager fans who sang, clapped and did the wave throughout the match.
“It’s an amazing crowd, an amazing stadium,” said Nadal, who was making his first appearance in South Africa since playing in the country as a junior.
“It’s an unforgettable evening. We will probably never play again in an atmosphere such as this one,” said Nadal. “I can’t thank enough the people here in Cape Town. They came here and created an unforgettable atmosphere.”
Earlier in the day, Federer and his doubles partner billionaire Bill Gates beat Nadal and South-African born comedian Trevor Noah in a match with more flexible rules.
The ceremonial coin toss was performed by World Cup-winning Springbok rugby captain Siya Kolisi, who presented Federer with a Springbok jersey. The coin used was a commemorative 20 Swiss Francs piece minted with Federer’s face. He gave it to Kolisi.
Other high-profile South African sports stars in attendance included former Springbok captains John Smit and Jean de Villiers as well as Olympic swimmer Ryk Neethling.
The match is the sixth edition of the event organised by the Roger Federer Foundation and is the first to take place in Africa.
“There’s so much anticipation that goes into it that the match itself almost gets forgotten,” said Federer before the match.
He said he spent childhood holidays in South Africa.
“The time spent here as a kid was amazing,” Federer said. “You would go on the road and you never come back for some reason because you’ve gotta chase that little tennis ball and you’ve gotta chase your dreams.”
Tens of thousands of fans showed up early and were ecstatic when Nadal and Federer hit practice balls into the stands.
One fan said she brought a wedding ring for Federer to propose to her. “I want to marry Roger,” she shouted.
Earlier in the afternoon, Federer and Nadal played tennis with children from townships in Hout Bay.
The children are part of an afterschool activity program with Zip Zap Circus which develops gross and fine motor skills.
Novak Djokovic shattered the hopes of ailing rival Roger Federer Thursday to sweep into a record eighth Australian Open final and move closer to his 17th Grand Slam crown.
The pair boasts one of world sport’s greatest rivalries, and after a tentative start, the Serb quickly reinforced his recent dominance, showing no mercy to the Swiss maestro in a 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 6-3 win.
He will play either fifth seed Dominic Thiem or seventh-ranked German Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final.
Roger Federer pulled off one of the greatest escapes of his career Tuesday, saving seven match points to come from two sets down and beat Tennys Sandgren for a place in the Australian Open semi-finals.
In a drama-packed match, the normally ice-cool Swiss was slapped with a coded warning for swearing and needed a rare medical timeout for a mystery injury before winning 6-3, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6 (10/8), 6-3.
His reward is a showdown against either long-time rival and seven-time champion Novak Djokovic or big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.