Roger Federer’s speech at the Switzerland Sport Awards is sending shockwaves across the tennis world after an alarming admission that his body may deny him a return in 2021.
Federer is pressing on with a focus on returning to tennis for a final run at Wimbledon and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics — but admits he may have already played his last match.
It throws into doubt his plans to play the 2021 Australian Open as he continues to recover from an ongoing knee injury.
During his acceptance speech after being named Switzerland’s greatest athlete of the past 70 years, Federer said the award would be an “incredible” way to end his career if it turns out that way.
“I hope that in 2021 I will return to the courts. We will see,” he said. “But if my career had to end here, well, it would be incredible to end it with this award.”
The 39-year-old underwent knee surgery in February that kept him out of the clay court season, and he announced in June that further complications had ruled him out for the rest of 2020.
Even now he admits he is far from 100 percent fit, despite doing everything in his power to return to his best.
“I didn’t have any setbacks since the second operation. I’ve made constant progress over the last six months,” he said.
“I wish I was more ready, but at the same time, I’m happy where I stand. We had a plan and decided to take as much time as we need … I’m still not at 100 percent.”
Federer singled out the Australian Open, admitting he may not be ready for the event, scheduled to begin Feb. 8.
“It’s a race against time for the Australian Open, we will see,” he said. “I’m curious to see whether it will start on Feb. 8. Of course it would help if I had a bit more time.
“I would have hoped that I would be 100 percent in October. But I am still not today. It will be tight for the Australian Open.”
His speech left tennis commentators fearing the end is coming sooner rather than later.
Federer has played in 22 consecutive Australian Opens. If he does make it to Australia in 2021, it will be without his family as a result of the strict biosecurity protocols and mandatory quarantine that all players, staff and officials will undergo when arriving from overseas.
Federer said in July he suffered a “setback” during the rehabilitation from his initial arthroscopic surgery, and would subsequently not return to the court until 2021.
“A few weeks ago, having experienced a setback during my initial rehabilitation, I had to have an additional quick arthroscopic procedure on my right knee,” Federer posted to Twitter at the time.
“Now, much like I did leading up to the 2017 season, I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level.
“I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly, but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season.”