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.
Twenty-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer said Wednesday he will be sidelined until 2021 after undergoing his second knee operation in a matter of months.
The 38-year-old Swiss said he underwent follow-up arthroscopic surgery “a few weeks ago” after undergoing a similar keyhole procedure in February.
Federer, whose last Grand Slam win was the 2018 Australian Open, said he “experienced a setback during (his) initial rehabilitation”.
“I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
“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.”
The announcement is likely to renew speculation about retirement for Federer, who holds the record for men’s Grand Slam singles titles and last month topped Forbes’ list of the world’s highest earning athletes.
Federer, who won his first major trophy in 2003, lies just ahead of his longtime rivals Rafael Nadal (19) and Novak Djokovic (17) on the all-time list.
The biggest title he has yet to win is an Olympic singles gold medal.
The Tokyo Games — seen as Federer’s final opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam — have been postponed until next year because of the pandemic, and Federer will turn 40 on the day of the closing ceremony.
After the initial operation, Federer had originally planned to return for the now cancelled grass-court season this month. His last tournament match was on January 30 in the Australian Open semi-finals, where he lost to eventual champion Djokovic.
His last appearance on court was in front of 51,954 fans — touted by organisers as a world record for tennis — at a charity match against Nadal in Cape Town in early February.
Tennis ground to a halt in March because of the coronavirus, and the globetrotting sport faces an uncertain route to recovery given crippling travel restrictions.
In April, Federer said he was “devastated” when Wimbledon, where he has won a record eight titles, was cancelled for the first time since World War II.
Federer, known for his elegant style of play, has got off lightly with injuries during a career in which he has won 103 singles titles, including all four majors.
He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee — the first operation of his career — in early 2016 after suffering a freak injury while running a bath for his daughters.
But after failing to win a title that year Federer returned strongly in 2017, winning seven tournaments including the Australian Open and Wimbledon — his most prolific season in a decade.
He is still six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 109.
Tour-level tennis has been suspended until the end of July at the earliest, with the US Open scheduled to start on August 24 and the rescheduled French Open on September 20.
Federer has not won the title at either Flushing Meadows or Roland Garros since his only French Open triumph in 2009.
The organisers of the French Open, who were criticised for unilaterally moving the tournament to a September start without consulting other tennis federations, could delay the event by another week, a report said Friday.
The claycourt Grand Slam could now start on September 27 instead of September 20, preceded by a week of qualification matches, Le Parisien newspaper said.
The French Tennis Federation (FFT) declined to confirm the report, but said in a statement: “The FFT is in contact with the international bodies, the ATP, WTA and ITF, and is waiting for the calendar to be confirmed by them.”
The FFT caused surprise in the tennis world by announcing in mid-March, just as France was going into lockdown because of the pandemic outbreak, that it was moving from its original May 24-June 7 slot to the September date.
If the tournament is delayed until September 27, it would give a two-week pause after the US Open, which is currently scheduled to finish on September 13.
Wimbledon, which was to have been played from June 29 to July 12, has been cancelled.
Wimbledon chiefs on Wednesday cancelled the Grand Slam tournament for the first time since World War II as the coronavirus wreaks further havoc on the global sporting calendar.
“It is with great regret that the main board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the committee of management of the Championships have today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic,” the organisers said in a statement.
The cancellation of the only grasscourt Grand Slam tournament leaves the tennis season in disarray.
All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said the decision had not been taken lightly.
“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by world wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships.”
World number two Rafael Nadal captured his first ATP Tour title of 2020, easily defeating unseeded Taylor Fritz in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, in the final of the Mexico Open on Saturday.
The 33-year-old Nadal, playing in his first tournament since losing in the quarter-finals at the Australian Open last month, didn’t drop a set all week and improved to 19-2 all-time at this event.
He nabbed his third Mexico Open title to go with victories in 2013 and 2005.
“I couldn’t be happier. I played a great event from the beginning to the end,” Nadal said. “Acapulco was the first big title that I won in my career, so to be able to stay here after 15 years is amazing.
“I can’t thank enough the people who make me feel at home every single time.”
Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova, one of the world’s most recognisable sportswomen, on Wednesday announced her retirement at the age of 32.
“Tennis — I’m saying goodbye,” Sharapova said in an article for Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines.
“After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain — to compete on a different type of terrain.”
Sharapova burst onto the scene as a supremely gifted teenager and won her Grand Slams before serving a 15-month ban for failing a drugs test at the 2016 Australian Open.
The Russian former world number one’s ranking is currently 373rd.
Sharapova has hardly played in the past year because of long-standing shoulder problems.
When she did play she lost as many matches as she won and was dumped out in the first rounds at Wimbledon, the US Open and, most recently, the Australian Open in Melbourne.
Sharapova shot to fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004, the third-youngest player to conquer the All England Club’s hallowed grass courts.
‘Tennis gave me life’
She became world number one in 2005 and won the US Open the next year.
“One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward,” Sharapova said on Wednesday.
“I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place.”
But in 2007 Sharapova began her long on-off battle with shoulder trouble.
She would win the 2008 Australian Open before a second shoulder injury kept her off tour for the second half of the season, missing the US Open and Beijing Olympics.
In 2012, the Siberian-born Sharapova captured the French Open to become the 10th woman to complete a career Grand Slam. She added Olympic silver to her resume that year.
Her 2014 French Open title was another high after a dispiriting injury low.
More fitness troubles followed before the bombshell announcement of her positive test for the banned heart drug meldonium.
Always a fighter — the seven-year-old Maria and father Yuri left for the US in 1994 with just a borrowed $700 to their names — Sharapova returned to the sport in 2017.
“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life,” Sharapova said in her retirement missive.
“I’ll miss it every day. I’ll miss the training and my daily routine: Waking up at dawn, lacing my left shoe before my right, and closing the court’s gate before I hit my first ball of the day.
“I’ll miss my team, my coaches. I’ll miss the moments sitting with my father on the practice court bench. The handshakes — win or lose — and the athletes, whether they knew it or not, who pushed me to be my best.
“Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible.”
Serena Williams was sensationally knocked out of the Australian Open third round by China’s Wang Qiang on Friday, torpedoing her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam crown.
Williams, 38, was the bookies’ favourite to win an eighth title at Melbourne Park but she came unstuck against a determined Wang, who took only one game off the American last time they met.
The 6-4, 6/7 (2/7), 7-5 upset means Williams, whose last Major win was at the 2017 Australian Open when she was pregnant, has fallen short at eight Grand Slams since returning from having a baby in 2018.
Serena Williams returns to the Auckland WTA Classic on Monday for the first time since her “miserable” debut appearance two years ago, determined to put the record straight.
“I’m in a really different frame of mind,” she said ahead of her opening match on day one — a marquee doubles appearance partnering Caroline Wozniacki — with her first-round singles against long-time rival Svetlana Kuznetsova expected on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old Williams is banking on Auckland setting her up for an unprecedented 24th major title at the Australian Open later in the month.
Williams was way below par when she played in Auckland in 2017, complaining about the windy conditions, being abrupt in interviews and could not wait to get out of the country as soon as she lost in the second round to Madison Brengle.
But she says the anger she felt then has gone.
“I’m not pregnant, as a start, so that works, so I can only do good now,” the tournament top seed and world number 10 joked with journalists as she reflected on how she was unaware at the time that she was six weeks pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia.
“I just remember it was windy and being angry, hating my now husband (Alexis Ohanian). I was like ‘I can’t stand you and I don’t know why,'” she said.
“Obviously at the time I didn’t know why either … I was six weeks pregnant and I had no idea. So looking back it’s so surreal and crazy and now that I’m here, I have all of these funny memories of being miserable.
“I always knew that I would have to come back, for sure. I didn’t even realize what was happening, and now I’m here with my daughter.
“This is kind of where it all began. It’s amazing. It’s so exciting to be here with her, and to know that this is literally where it started.”
Despite her quick exit in 2017, Williams went on to win the Australian Open for her 23rd major title, but has not won a tournament since.
Williams, who has a 10-3 record against Kuznetsova in a 16-year rivalry, said she was pleased to be playing her “really good friend” first up.
“I like to play really tough opponents in the first round, and there’s no better way to start than to start serious. I really love her and adore her, and I wish it could’ve been a little bit later, for both of us,” she said.
She was also looking forward to playing with former world number one Wozniacki in the doubles, calling the Dane “one of my best friends”.
Meanwhile, the Auckland tournament has been hit with the late withdrawal of seventh seed Jelena Ostapenko who pulled out for “personal reasons”.
The 22-year-old Latvian, who won the French Open in 2017, is the second high-profile withdrawal with Canadian Bianca Andreescu pulling out last month due to her ongoing knee problems.
Andreescu defeated Williams to claim the US Open title in September last year.
Novak Djokovic says the main source of his motivation at this stage of his career is securing a lasting legacy rather than simply trying to win tennis matches and trophies.
For nearly two years, from mid-2016 until mid-2018, the 32-year-old Serb had admittedly struggled with motivation after pulling off the historic feat of winning four Grand Slams in a row –- a first in men’s tennis since 1969.
Djokovic recaptured his spark and has since added a quartet of majors to his overall tally, which now stands at 16.
While the world number two remains in a tight battle with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the race for most Grand Slam titles won, Djokovic believes what currently drives him in the sport is something deeper than that.
“You need to constantly give yourself fuel from the source, whatever the source is,” Djokovic said at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he secured third place with victory over Karen Khachanov on Saturday.
“I think it’s always about finding that purpose, and the reason, the meaning of actually playing. For me, especially in the last couple of years, it’s not only about winning a tennis match or a trophy.
“It had to be something greater than my own achievements. Something that would be related to legacy, something that would really be inspiring the lives of others, particularly kids.”
Federer holds the men’s all-time record of most majors won, with 20, and Nadal is breathing down his neck with a total of 19.
Djokovic is younger than both of them though, and has a shot at closing the gap on his two rivals.
“That’s a goal,” said Djokovic, when asked if he is fuelled by breaking records.
“I’m motivated by breaking my own records and moving my own boundaries and that”s something that motivates me to compete.
“I do love to play tennis so I do like to be on the practice court. But competitive tennis is different. In order to compete to be a professional tennis player and to compete at the highest level, you really need goals, daily goals, monthly goals, yearly goals.
“So I do have them, as everyone else. Of course, I’m aware of the privilege that I have to fight for history and to be able to possibly achieve even greater things and that’s something that drives me of course, alongside other things.”
Djokovic will begin his 2020 season by representing Serbia in the ATP Cup in Australia.
He remains midway through his pre-season preparations, and leaves Abu Dhabi with one loss, to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and one win over Khachanov.
“I got what I came here for, two good matches,” he said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Khachanov is hoping to find consistency in the new season following a see-saw 2019.
The Russian former top-10 player has added Swedish coach Fredrik Rosengren to his team, to work alongside Vedran Martic.
The 23-year-old is also a new dad, having welcomed his son David with his wife, Veronika, three months ago.
“Fatherhood is treating me very well. I think you become more mature because you have a responsibility not only for yourself but for the whole family, so that’s one of the biggest steps,” said the 17th-ranked player.