Roger Federer announced on his twitter account on Wednesday that his season is done. The 38 year old Swiss revealing he’s had another recent knee surgery, which will see him off the tour until 2021. The ATP Tour ground to a halt in March this year due to the pandemic, so by the time Federer returns presumably in January that’s ten months without a competitive match.
In tennis years ten months is a lifetime. The only recent male players competitive at 39 years old at the Slams were Jimmy Conners and the great Ken Rosewall, since then though, the game has changed.
Federer hasn’t won a Slam since the 2018 Australian Open. The chances he wins the 2021 Australian Open would be slim to none, with so little matches under his belt. Federer still leads with 20 Slams; Rafa is next on 19, with Novak at 17.
Wimbledon was cancelled this year due to the pandemic. It was never going to be postponed due to the fickle nature of grass being a seasonal surface. The French Open was delayed until September this year with the President of the French Federation adamant Roland Garros will go ahead with or without spectators. It is still illegal to have a gathering in France of more than 500 people.
The US Open in the hard hit pandemic city of New York is still scheduled to begin on August 31st. However, extreme restrictions are in place. Players will be required to stay in Queens, close to the tournament site; a 14-day quarantine will be required for overseas player entering the U.S. and one person per player is only allowed at matches, which essentially bans support staff.
Djokovic has balked at these restrictions, telling a Serbian TV network “this is not sustainable” in regards to playing the US Open. The USTA cut over 100 jobs earlier this week in a cost saving measure, but media rights and sponsorship will ensure the US Open still goes ahead.
So, two Slams are potentially up for grabs by the time Federer returns to the tour. So, what does this mean for the Grand Slam race? The two recent knee surgeries for Federer are definitely worrisome. I doubt he’ll play Roland Garros next year when he returns, with clay being the least reliable surface in terms of footing. This leaves Wimbledon and the US Open, which if I were a betting man would be the last Slams he ever plays, the final hurrah in a historic career.
Lets say for arguments sake he does win one of those two. That would leave the Swiss with 21 Slams. I don’t just think it will be enough. Even if Novak skips the US Open in two months he’s still young enough to win 5 or 6 more Slams, it would get him to 23 or 24.
Also, Rafa is not done and could hit 20 Slams by the end of this season by winning either New York or Paris. Now that the lockdown restrictions are easing up around the world and various sports and kicking back into action the Grand Slam race will be back on. For now though, without Roger Federer.