by Bob Stockton
Roger Federer’s time in the world’s top 3 is over after the Swiss great dropped to number four following his decision to undergo surgery in February. Federer could not defend his Dubai title from a year ago, and Australian Open runner-up Dominic Thiem has taken his place. The Austrian is now in the top 3 for the first time, despite not playing last week.
While Thiem’s progress is worthy of discussion, all eyes are on Federer as he dropped from the top 3 for the first time in three years. Federer’s drop means the Djokovic, Nadal, Federer stranglehold on the top of men’s tennis has ended. Many fans are now asking what the future holds for Federer and whether he could choose to retire from the sport.
That’s certainly not Federer’s intentions publicly. According to the 20-time grand slam champion, he will be ready to return in time for the grass-court season. Federer will once again be amongst the favorites for Wimbledon when sports betting websites open markets for the tournament. Still, for some observers, we could be about to witness the end of Federer’s career.
At 38-years-old, Federer has already been managing his schedule and limiting which events he plays for several years. Even with his on-court guile and in-game management, it is clear Federer cannot compete at the same physical level he used to. For a player who spent 10 years of his prime without significant injury, the last couple of seasons have seen problems hamper his progress.
With a three-month break to the grass season, Federer will have plenty of time to reflect. For a champion like him, playing just to turn up at Grand Slams is not enough… he needs to be competitive. If injury and age finally catch up with Federer and he thinks he cannot compete at the highest level, retirement could be closer than many predict.
Why Roger Federer Won’t Retire
At the moment, Federer will believe he is still in the elite group of players in the world. Let’s not forget he made the semi-finals of the Australian Open when he was clearly carrying a problem. Additionally, he demolished Djokovic at the ATP Tour Finals last November. In other words, Federer remains very much in the mix at the major tournaments.
It seems unless injury decides for him, Federer’s game continues to hold up against the best in the world. While many predict the end of Federer’s career is imminent, 8-time slam champion John McEnroe has warned against writing the Swiss off.
McEnroe compares Federer’s longevity and ability to stay competitive to Tom Brady’s similar staying power in the NFL. He says he’s unsure how Federer and six-time Super Bowl winner Brady keep going, but the clear fact is they do.
“I mean, how they keep doing it would be the first thing at their age. It’s phenomenal, right? I mean, how in the world are these guys still playing at such a high level?
“I’ve admired watching Tom Brady because he makes players around him better. But you’re out there on your own and you’re 38 and you could be turning 39 on a tennis court with the wear and tear.
“That’s really tough. It’s already amazing he’s made it this far.”
McEnroe suggests Federer has already come back from injury once before with a renewed strength and believes it is possible again. Federer missed the second half of the 2016 season and went under the knife for a back problem. Then in his mid-thirties, many predicted Federer’s career at the top was over, especially as he had not won a slam since 2012.
However, Fed returned from injury and picked up the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017, before winning the Open again in 2018. Discussing that previous injury, McEnroe suggests it would be foolish to write Federer off again.
“And I thought, you know, that’s pretty much it. That’s four years ago.
“And he came back after not having played for six months and managed to win the Australian Open (the next) year, winning three best-of-five-set matches, which is virtually unheard of to begin with.
“And to win three majors post-surgery. So, you never can count him out.”
Novak Djokovic, one of Federer’s great rivals, admits he was surprised Federer needed time out for surgery but says he expects the Swiss master to return.
“I knew he was struggling with an injury in the Australian Open. But no one knew really what was the injury, what is the extent of that injury.
“I really don’t like to see anybody going through surgery. I’ve been through that once, and hopefully the last time in my life.
“Roger is Roger – this sport needs him.”