Good news. The tours are set to return following their suspension forced by the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, the US Open is confirmed, albeit behind closed doors. Now the USTA is hoping the top players will cast aside their concerns and sign up, but unfortunately one won’t be making an appearance.
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 Roger Federer
To the disappointment of his fans, Roger Federer, who claimed the title over five consecutive years between 2004-08 and reached the final in 2015, has undergone a couple of knee operations over a couple of months and as a consequence, decided to opt out of the rest of the year to recover fully for the 2021 season.
And while many may feel it doesn’t augur well for the future, he remains optimistic, tweeting: “I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.”
One certainly shouldn’t write him off. The last time he took a six-month lay-off he came back to immediately claim the Australian Open in 2017 and going on to win his eighth Wimbledon title some six months later.
Back then he was 35. When he returns this time, he will be 39 careering fast towards his 40th in August.
Even his most loyal fans must realise that he is entering the twilight zone of his illustrious playing career despite being currently ranked four in the world to remain a dangerous opponent.
So, what motivates him? It’s certainly not money – he’s amassed a fortune in both prizemoney and sponsorship deals – last month he topped Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-earning athlete. His status in the game? That is already assured as a GOAT.
Notwithstanding his position within the sport, there is one thing missing from his list of achievements. He doesn’t have an Olympic Gold medal in singles which Andy Murray prevented him from claiming in London 2012.
Next year’s Tokyo Games – postponed from this year by the pandemic – is surely his last chance of achieving that goal, though he can still show off a gold for the doubles title he won with Stan Wawrinka four years earlier.
Meanwhile he is trying to hold back Rafa Nadal’s and Novak Djokovic’s assault on his record of 20 single grand slam titles. In his absence Nadal could well equal if not pull ahead if he successfully defends both his US Open and Roland Garros titles in August and September, the latter having been rescheduled from May.
Meanwhile Djokovic, on 17, is favourite to win the US Open so he could draw closer to the tally to add more pressure on the Swiss.
Federer’s hopes of improving that record would have been Wimbledon which was cancelled for the first time in its history. That decision left Federer ‘devastated’ having the previous year failed to convert two match point he held on his own serve against Djokovic.
His best chance of adding to his grand slam collection remains on those grass courts of the AELTC but one shouldn’t ignore the Australian Open which brought up his 20th when he defended it in 2018 – this year he reached the last four in Melbourne, the only event he played this season.
He has another record in his sights which is currently held by Jimmy Connors, namely the 109 tournament titles the American achieved during his own illustrious career. He just needs seven more to take over that record.
Will all that prove enough motivation? It should but time is running out.
His popularity remains immense and it will be a great loss to the sport when he does eventually hang up his racket. His elegance and eloquence will also be sorely missed as his last appearance on court, a charity match against rival Nadal in Capetown last February attracting 52,000 spectators, attests.
Of all the great players over the years, Roger Federer is without doubt, the best ambassador the game has ever produced and knees permitting, he will be back.
“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.
Nevertheless everything does eventually come to an end and his legion of fans as well as the sport itself, will have to get used to that fact when that moment does arrive.
In the interim the US Open this year will take place without him.