Kolkata: Is Roger Federer targetting a comeback at the Wimbledon - exactly a year after he last played competitive tennis? The master entertainer’s legion of fans may be hoping for that after he had uploaded a video of him unleashing a few crisp forehands recently, but his coach Severin Luthi has sounded a word of caution about expecting too much too early.
In the video he uploaded on Instagram, the Swiss master was seen hitting as he headed back to the practice courts eight months after what was a third knee surgery for him. The short clip went viral the moment it was posted, garnering more than a million views and close to 200,000 likes within the hour.
Federer was last seen in action at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, where he lost in the quarter finals in straight sets to Hubert Hurkacz. Eight months and another knee surgery later, the 20-time Grand Slam champion is finally back on the practice courts.
Earlier this year, he fell out of the top 20 for the first time in two decades. The knee injury that was exacerbated after the Wimbledon loss, along with its subsequent rehab, forced him to skip the US Open at the end of 2021 as well as the 2022 Australian Open.
The prolonged break has taken a massive hit on his ranking, with him dropping to as low as world No. 30 by the end of January. The current ranking is No.42 with 1120 points - and it will only dip further due to his prolonged absence from competitive tennis. This will, however, not come in the way of the master entertainer should he declare himself fit and available as the All England Club will be only too eager to hand him a wild card. While Federer is just taking baby steps to assess his fitness, a more realistic target for his comeback is believed to be the Laver Cup, scheduled to be held in the O2 Arena in London from September 23-25.
The ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis has now thinned down to Big Two and the million dollar question is: where does Federer go from here? Pondering over the question, Zeeshan Ali, currently the national tennis coach of India and an accomplished Davis Cupper said: ‘‘There has been hardly another example of a 40-year-old plying his trade at the highest level in singles, even if you are a Federer. As a Federer fan, I desperately want him to take to the courts but we should temper our expectations and let him enjoy.’’
While it’s understandable that rankings no longer matter, but the benchmark that Federer has set for himself in such an exceptional career may also be at risk. Speaking to Gulf News over phone, Zeeshan brushed aside any such apprehensions though: ‘‘If you notice, he had started the process of listening to his body and picking and choosing his tournaments for a number of years since the first knee injury. If he comes back, it will be very much on his own terms and it will be certainly value for money as long as he is on the court. However, expecting him to last a maximum of seven best-of-five setters and add another grand slam to his career may not be practical.’’
The importance of being Federer lies in the fact that while the global tennis fraternity wants him to make a comeback at some point, everyone wants him to do so in his own terms. Marc Rosset, a compatriot, expressed his desire to see him again for at least another season but is doubtful: “I would like Roger Federer to have a full last season in 2023. That would be great, but I don’t know how possible that is.
‘‘Roger is working hard to recover from yet another knee surgery, it’s not easy at his age. As far as I’m concerned, what matters most is Federer’s happiness. Whatever decision he makes, I will be happy for him,” the former Olympic gold medallist said in a recent interview.
And he was only echoing the thoughts of his fans...