Twenty-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer yesterday confirmed he will be sidelined until next year after undergoing a second knee operation in a matter of months.
The Swiss, who turns 39 in August, said that he had follow-up arthroscopic surgery “a few weeks ago” after a similar keyhole procedure in February.
He revealed that he “experienced a setback” during his initial rehabilitation, and thus had to go under the knife again.
“I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 per cent ready to play at my highest level,” he said in a statement on Twitter.
“I will be missing my fans and the (ATP) Tour dearly, but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of 2021.”
The announcement is likely to renew speculation about retirement for Federer, who holds the record for men’s Grand Slam singles titles and last month topped Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-earning athletes.
The biggest title he has yet to win is an Olympic singles gold, but the Tokyo Games – seen as his final opportunity to complete a career “golden” Grand Slam – has been postponed until July next year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
He will be 40 on the day of the closing ceremony.
After the initial operation, he had originally planned to return for the now-cancelled grass-court season this month, including Wimbledon.
His last tournament match was on Jan 30 in the Australian Open semi-finals in Melbourne, where he was defeated by eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
Tennis ground to a halt in March due to the pandemic, and the globetrotting sport faces an uncertain route to recovery given crippling travel restrictions.
Federer has had knee issues in recent years. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee – the first operation of his career – in early 2016 after suffering a freak injury while running a bath for his twin daughters.
But after failing to win a title that year, he returned strongly in 2017, winning seven tournaments including the Australian Open and Wimbledon – his most prolific season in a decade.
Federer remains six ATP titles short of Jimmy Connors’ all-time record of 109. While fears are mounting over his future, he will not be missing a big chunk of tennis as the ATP and WTA Tours are not set to resume until August at the earliest.
Moreover, the two Majors he will not be taking part in – the delayed French Open in September and the US Open, which remains a doubt – have been his two weakest big events in recent years. He has not won the title at either Flushing Meadows or Roland Garros since his only French Open triumph in 2009.