Could a severely reduced 2020 season give Federer further longevity?

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Roger Federer Wimbledon 1998

You have to go back to 1998 to find a season where Roger Federer played as few tournaments as he did in 2020.

Indeed, If one did venture back twenty-two years to have a look through the tour archives during a year when France hosted the FIFA World Cup and Google was founded, you would find that Federer only played three times.

That, of course, was the start of the Swiss legend’s career at the tender age of just 17, and understandably, that number was to grow exponentially over the next few years, during 2000 he played in 28 tournaments. But to date, Federer has never played in as few tournaments as he did in 2020, competing just once. So what exactly can we take from this prolonged break, could it have perhaps even aided the 39-year-old’s quest to stay in the game for a few more years, or will it turn out to be the beginning of the end for Federer?

Let’s start off by looking at what is expected of Federer at the 2021 Australian Open in terms of the online betting odds for the tournament. Tellingly, Federer is at 8/1 with four players better priced than him. On this evidence, we can assume that those within the industry feel like a 21st Grand Slam in Melbourne may be a bridge too far, but also crucially, not totally beyond the realms of possibility either. Federer, for instance, isn’t among the group of wild card players like Stan Wawrinka who is at odds of 40/1 to triumph at the Rod Laver Arena.

A lot of this is probably down to the fact that Federer has a special relationship with this tournament having won it in 2018 at the age of 36. Also, history is on Federer’s side as the oldest ever grand slam winner was Ken Rosewall who won the Australian Open in 1972, aged 37 years, 2 months, and 1 day.

Stats like these are easy to dismiss in sport but we do know that history has a habit of repeating itself. The idea of Federer winning the 2021 Australian Open becomes even more plausible if you are part of the school of thought that feels a year out of the game could have done the 39-year-old’s knees the world of good.

The decision to miss most of the 2020 season was down to the fact that he was going to have a further knee operation in June to correct unsuccessful surgery in February. Needless to say, he’s been struggling for form on account of his right knee but the extended break in 2020 could finally see Federer completely fit once more. These assumptions are especially believable when you take into consideration what Federer’s coach has been saying.

Indeed, by all accounts, Federer’s recovery has gone well with his coach confirming that Federer was ‘back to work’ and without pain at the start of November.

Yes, there is a case to be made that a year out could see Federer return rejuvenated as well refreshed, and ready to keep Nadal and Djokovic at arm’s length. But then you have to remember that Federer is 39 and has been on tour since 1998, any extended break could have actually robbed him of precious time on the tour. We’ll have our answer soon enough with the Australian Open only six weeks away.

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