The agent of six-time former champion Roger Federer has announced that the 20-time Major winner will be unable to compete at the 2021 Australian Open, with the world #5 having not yet fully recovered from a knee injury. The Swiss star, who last won the title Down Under in 2018, has been out of action since last year’s tournament at Melbourne Park when he battled into the semifinals whilst carrying an injury, before falling to Novak Djokovic in straight-sets.
He then played in a charity event for his foundation in Africa, alongside Rafael Nadal, Bill Gates and Trevor Noah, but had knee surgery shortly thereafter which ruled him out for most of 2020. That had less impact than would usually be the case due to the coronavirus pandemic, which saw much of that season cancelled, including Wimbledon where he has won eight titles, and the rankings effectively frozen.
Federer had initially hoped to return later in the year, but the Swiss was forced to skip both the US Open and Roland Garros, which were won by Dominic Thiem and Nadal respectively. His continued absence from the ATP Tour will doubtless be a bitter blow for the great man, with Nadal having equalled his tally of 20 Grand Slams by winning the title in Paris last October and Djokovic fast closing in on his record of 310 weeks at world #1.
Federer, who turns 40 in August, has only been able to achieve such longevity by taking great care with his body. He will be well-aware that rushing back to action could well end his career. Nonetheless, this extended absence will be a cause for concern both for the 20-time Grand Slam champion and his fans, particularly as what was initially described as a minor procedure looks set to have ruled him out of 12 months of action.
Even Federer, who has so long defied father-time, cannot continue forever and there will surely now be real fears that the Swiss will never again return to the pinnacle of the sport he once dominated. Equally, however, he has been ruled out of contention in the past and returned to capture fresh glories, not least in 2017 when he won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, having missed the latter half of the 2016 season with knee and back problems.
Main photo from Getty Images.