After an unsuccessful attempt to claim the Australian Open title in January, Roger Federer has announced that he is to have knee surgery that will rule him out of the French Open and clay court season in full.
The Swiss legend, who currently holds the most Grand Slam victories in history, with 20 titles, will miss not just the French Open at Roland Garros, but the whole clay court season. While it is due to an injury, the obviously ulterior motive is Federer bidding to end the season in spectacular fashion and claim one of the two remaining hard-court Slams on offer in 2020.
Federer made the announcement on Twitter as he ruled himself out of Glam Slam competition until June at the earliest.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) February 20, 2020
The admission from Federer that surgery is necessary brings back memories of 2016 for tennis fans, when Federer had a similar operation. It was one that kept him out of all but seven tournaments in that season. After losing in the semi-final of the Australian Open to Novak Djokovic, the man who denied Federer at last year’s Wimbledon in five thrilling sets, the question that begs asking is whether Federer can win a Grand Slam with a fully fit Djokovic standing in his way.
Nadal is less of a problem, the Spaniard’s domain being Roland Garros. In fact, Federer has never beaten Nadal at Roland Garros. The year he did prevail on the clay, he didn’t have to face the so-called ‘king’ of that surface in order to do so. But Djokovic has a handle on Federer on the surfaces the Swiss prefers to play on.
There was a time when Roger Federer was a massive odds-on favourite at Wimbledon before the tournament even began. Today, he sits at 4/1 to win Wimbledon, second favourite behind Djokovic at 6/4. The margin of difference between the two men can only really be explored as vast when you look at recent results in truly huge games.
Federer’s overall record against Djokovic is a fairly level 23 wins to 27 losses, the Serbian enjoying the overall advantage by just four matches. But the current world number one Djokovic has won the two men’s last six meetings in Grand Slam matches, with Federer’s last win coming in afour-set classic at Wimbledon back in 2012.
That was eight long years ago and Federer’s mindset and body have changed irreparably.
Federer’s decision to avoid the clay court season may yet turn oout to be the wisest move in a career that has spanned 20 years and still – just about – has him as the Greatest of all Time. The ‘GOAT’ of tennis would be equaled by Rafael Nadal’s likely ascension to immortality at Roland Garros, so that makes it all the more vital that the Fed Express can return to Slam-winning form in the summer.
Can Roger Federer’s injury lay-off actually give his body a rest that will see him attack Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in his bid to win the ‘Race to 21’? The answer to that question may well define Roger Federer’s legacy.
Rest up, Roger. It’s the calm before the storm.