Grigor Dimitrov, of Bulgaria, right, shakes hands with Roger Federer
Grigor Dimitrov, of Bulgaria, right, shakes hands with Roger Federer, of Switzerland, after a quarterfinal of the U.S. Open tennis tournament Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in New York. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Only a couple of days back, Roger Federer said he was uncertain about playing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — leaving it to his core team, family and, of course, his body to take a call. As he suffered his first-ever loss to Grigor Dimitrov in the US Open quarter-finals on Tuesday, the inevitable question is again up in the air — will he be back for the last of the Slams next year?

The 20th Grand Slam, his most recent, may have come one-and-a-half years back in the Australian Open in 2018 but it’s not merely the pursuit of the 21st one that still drives him. The Swiss master now believes in playing on his own terms and stoked the imagination of his legion of fans after making the quarter-finals earlier when he said he felt like he could play “forever”.

Only in July, Federer was in imperious form on his favourite turf, Wimbledon, where after making the final, he squandered two match-points while serving for trophy against Novak Djokovic in that epic final. His campaign on the hard courts of New York was relatively patchy when he started off by dropping a set to Sumit Nagal, the Indian qualifier, though it was a stiffness at the back, which hampered him against Dimitrov.

Always a huge crowd-puller at the Dubai Duty Free Open, Federer became the second player after Jimmy Connors to win a 100th ATP crown here earlier this year and has committed to playing in Dubai next year as well. The question mark over participation in Tokyo stems from the qualification rules for Federer is loath to going though the rigour of five-a-set Davis Cup ties — a necessity to earn a ticket to the Olympics.

While Federer prefers to leave the retirement question up in the air, more so in light of his impressive form, his agent Tony Godsick said in an interview last year that it’s “really questionable” whether Federer will play beyond the 2020 season.

It was only last year — at the twilight of his career — that Federer signed a new, 10-year apparel contract with Japanese brand Uniqlo on the eve of Wimbledon. The deal is reportedly worth $300 million while Federer was earning about $7.5 million annually with Nike, a figure which will nearly quadruple that total annually — and this includes huge post-career benefits.

The lure of Brand Federer, along with the legend of the player, will hence be timeless!