Most celebrated career in tennis history is hanging by a thread after Roger Federer announced he would undergo his third knee surgery inside two years.
The 40 year-old Swiss declared that he would be ‘out of the game for many months’ as Father Time appears to take him into a fifth set tiebreak that he cannot win.
After his capitulation in the Wimbledon quarter final against Hubert Hurkacz it can only fuel fears that he will not be seen again on the sport’s biggest stages.
It seemed inevitable that he would miss the US Open at the end of this month, but he was desperately keen to play in the return of the Laver Cup after a two year absence. The team event is the brainchild of Federer and his management company, and will take place in Boston later in September.
Now there appears no chance that he will play seriously before next Spring – if ever again in the sport’s flagship events he has graced since making his French Open main draw debut in 1999.
‘I’ll be on crutches for many weeks, and also out of the game for many months,’ said Federer in a post via his Instagram account.
There appeared to be hints that he wants to ensure good health for later life, as a priority over making some kind of competitive comeback.
‘It’s going to be difficult in some ways but, at the same time, I know it’s the right thing to do because I want to be healthy, I want to be running around later as well again.
‘I also want to give myself a glimmer of hope to return to the tour in some shape or form. I am realistic – I know how difficult it is at this age right now to do another surgery and try it.
‘But I want to be healthy. I will go through the rehab process with a goal, while I’m still active, which I think is going to help me during this long period of time.’
This certainly signals the end of his participation in the three-way race to see who ends up with most Grand Slam titles, with himself, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic currently tied on 20 each.
Already there are significant questions hanging over the Australian Open in January with the current situation there. Restrictions on players are already likely, further reducing the chances of Federer wishing to play.
By the time the next Wimbledon comes around he will be close to 41, having a birthday on August 8. However, he would not wish his final appearance at SW19 to end up being July’s 6-0 fourth set drubbing inflicting by his Polish opponent.
While his increasing physical problems are a blow for his Laver Cup project, the wider game of tennis will also shudder at the thought of his demise.
No player has attracted such a following from a wide constituency or transcended the sport like Federer, who has been a lynchpin of what will be looked back upon as golden age in the men’s game.
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