Roger Federer dubai
Roger Federer Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Melbourne: Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer will miss the Australian Open for the first time in his career as he continues his recovery from two rounds of knee surgery, organisers said Monday.

The 39-year-old Swiss has been out of action since February but recently resumed training and was on the entry list for year's opening Grand Slam, which will make a delayed start on February 8.

Federer, a huge favourite with the Melbourne crowds, hasn't missed the Australian Open since his debut in 2000, winning the trophy six times.

"In the end Roger ran out of time to get himself ready for the rigours of a Grand Slam and he's very disappointed he won't be coming to Melbourne in 2021," said tournament chief Craig Tiley.

"We wish him all the best as he prepares for his comeback later in the year and look forward to seeing him in Melbourne in 2022."

Federer hasn't played a tournament since his Melbourne semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic in January, missing the rest of the Covid-disrupted 2020 season.

He could only watch as Rafael Nadal matched his all-time men's record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles with a 13th victory at the French Open.

Federer leaves a field packed with the world's top players, led by world number ones Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty.

The opening Grand Slam of the year, which will be played in front of at least 50 percent of normal crowds, has been pushed back three weeks to February 8.

The withdrawal comes as former world number one Andy Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist, was given a wildcard entry.