A knee injury and two surgeries kept Roger Federer out of most of the 2020 season; the pandemic and the associated altered ATP rankings ensured he ended the season ranked number five nonetheless. How will he go in 2021, we take a look.
While Federer is already scheduled to miss the Australian Open, his agent has reportedly stated that the Swiss maestro expects to make a late February return to the tour. As he turns 40 this year, 2021 is believed to possibly be the last year for Roger Federer on the tour.
A Dazzling Career
Roger Federer and the world of tennis have been synonymous and inseparable for a while now. A career that has spanned more than two decades has seen Federer reach new highs that the sport had not seen yet, as well as set the bar at unprecedented levels for his peers and the next generation alike.
Having been the holder of coveted records like most number of majors, most weeks at number one, most Wimbledon titles and many more, Federer has had a career relatively injury free, with longevity seen sparingly in the sport. The Swiss has often been referred to by fans and experts as the greatest to have ever played and over time has established himself as one of the top ambassadors in the sport.
Age, Other Real Challenges Not On Federer’s Side
The 2000s saw the dominance of Federer on the men’s tour that had seldom been seen before in tennis, and by the time he was in his mid 20s, he was well on course for records and greatness that were unprecedented at the time.
The late 2000s and the 2010s saw the arrival of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic (check which racquet he uses here), who would turn out to be arch rivals of each other throughout each of their careers. Although Nadal and Djokovic turned out to Federer’s Achilles Heal, it was solely due to them that the Swiss reinvented his game a few times over and each time raised his already high bar on the court.
Nadal and Djokovic remain one of the primary reasons that Federer has played as long as he has, and the three of them set up the Golden Era of the men’s sport, often referred to as the ‘Big Three era’ lasting for the last decade and a half.
As Federer approached his mid-to-late 30s, it was evident that Nadal and Djokovic with their younger legs could outdo the maestro, but his effortless game was always able to match up, despite one thinking the clock was about to chime.
The last few years have not only seen Federer age, but also seen the arrival of the ‘Next Gen’ and Federer experience three knee surgeries, two in 2020 itself. As the Swiss approaches the age of 40, with the ‘younger’ members of the Big Three going strong and the ‘Next Gen’ ensuring they are here to stay, the writing is on the wall for Federer.
As 2021 gets rolling, the tennis world awaits the return of the legend, but ‘Father Time’ does not stop for anyone, and the day many have never wanted to face, only gets closer.
What Does 2021 Hold for Federer?
While the tennis world awaits the return of the Swiss maestro later this year, they also know that expectations need to be managed. Having been out of action for most of 2020, approaching the age of 40, and the field continuing to get stronger, a repeat of Federer’s 2017 successful return to the tour seems unlikely.
Federer’s agent has already stated that the 20-time major winner will be missing the 2021 Australian Open and an updated list of tournaments he plans to participate in is expected shortly with a possible late February return to the tour.
TWL believes the Swiss to play a limited schedule with a return at the ATP 500 in Rotterdam or Dubai, followed by the Miami Open Masters 1000 where he is still the defending champion since 2019, given the 2020 cancellation due to the pandemic. His participation on clay remains in doubt, but it will be minimal, if anything.
As he has stated a few times now, including most recently at the Swiss sports awards, Federer plans to focus primarily on grass with the ultimate prize at Wimbledon, the Olympics (where he is yet to win the singles title) and the US Open. Expect him to wrap up the season with the Laver Cup and Basel.
While it remains to be seen how his form and fitness are upon his return, his best chance for the elusive Grand Slam number 21 remains on the grass courts of Wimbledon and he will give it everything. A healthy Federer will still be the second favorite there after Novak Djokovic.
The Olympics singles title is something he will want with all his heart, but that setup always remains unpredictable. Tournaments such as Dubai, Basel, Halle and Laver Cup have always seen the best tennis from the former world number one from Switzerland. While Dubai maybe too soon after his return, we expect him to continue his phenomenal runs at both Halle and Basel.
2021 Predictions for Federer
Expect Federer to be focussing primarily on the grass and the Olympics among the others. Although he will not start as the favorite, he will always be a contender at Wimbledon and will give the Olympics his best shot.
With potential to get closer to Connors’ 109 titles, expect the Swiss to succeed at Halle, Basel and the sort as well as play the Laver Cup that is so close to his heart, before drawing the curtains on a career to be archived in world sport eternally.