Federer: If I wanted a fairy-tale ending I would have retired in 2017

hannahwilks in News 09 Jul 2020
Roger Federer (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Roger Federer continues to look to the future despite COVID-19 and two knee surgeries this year: ‘I think I would really like to see what else is left for me.’

Speaking to the Business of Fashion podcast in an interview released on July 6 to promote his new trainer, Federer – who turns 39 in August – was inevitably asked about his retirement plans.

‘I’m working [on] my rehab right now, my goal is to be back 100% ready by the first of December, first of January so I can play a full season again next year.’

The Swiss star has only played six official matches in 2020, reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open before losing to Novak Djokovic. He underwent surgery on his right knee in February and announced that he intended to return for the grass-court season, only for the global health crisis to lead to a complete shutdown of ATP Tour tennis and the cancellation of Wimbledon for the first time since the Second World War.

Federer then underwent a second surgery on his right knee in July and announced that he was shutting down his season and would return to competition in 2021.

‘I don’t truly believe in fairy-tale endings because I think if you try to achieve that you will fail. If it happens it happens, but if I wanted it to happen I probably could have retired by my comeback in ’17, when I came back and won my first tournament back in Australia beating Rafa in five sets in a final. I mean, how much better can it get, really?

‘And I didn’t think either by beating Novak last year in a Wimbledon epic final, if I would have won that I wouldn’t have retired then on the spot either. … It was an amazing match but I believe there is still a bit more to go.’

Federer held two championship points but ended up losing to Djokovic in a five-set match which was the longest singles final in Wimbledon history.

Federer narrowly lost to Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final (AntoineCouvercelle/Panoramic.)

The 20-time Grand Slam champion confided that he is facing a 20-week fitness training block in order to get back to full fitness after his second operation and a lengthy absence from competition.

‘I’m really thankful that I’ve still got the passion to keep going. My fitness coach has told me, “We’re probably looking at a 20-week fitness block, are you ready for it?” I was like, “Yeah, absolutely” and he looked me in the eye and said, “Are you sure?”

‘… I was like “Yeah, it’s good.” I mean, I’ll definitely try it while I’m still active enough. I’d rather do rehab this way than when I’m retired – I mean seriously, I’m going to do rehab properly, professionally? No chance, I’ll be doing other things.

‘… I think I would really like to see what else is left for me and hopefully I have a great next year and we’ll go from there.’

By the time Federer returns to action in January, as he plans, he could have lost his grip on the all-time Grand Slam titles record. Long-time rival Nadal won his 19th major title at the US Open in 2019 and although it is unlikely that he will defend his title when the 2020 US Open takes place in September behind closed doors, the 12-time Roland Garros champion will be the overwhelming favourite when the French Open takes place from 27 September-11 October.

Federer admitted he’s been fielding retirement questions since 2009, when he completed the career Grand Slam by winning the French Open and went on to reclaim his Wimbledon title by beating Andy Roddick in a memorable five-set final.

‘And here we are, I didn’t think I was going to play until 38 or 39. If you would have told me, “Roger, in 16 years you’re going to have a left knee operation and then in 2020 you’re going to have two right knee operations and still [be] motivated and eager to play”, I would have probably told you: “Are you crazy? There’s no way I want to play tennis any more if that’s the case.”

Federer celebrates completing the career Grand Slam at the French Open in 2009 (Photo by Christophe Guibbaud/Cameleon/ABACAPRESS.COM)

‘But as long as I know I’m not taking long-term risks on my health, my four kids are doing great, my wife is happy I’m still pursuing my dreams and she’s very supportive of that fact and we can manage all the travels with the family and everybody, and I truly still have full-blown passion to play and I believe I can compete with the best, beat the best and still win the biggest tournaments, I’m honestly really willing to give it a go.

‘[B]ecause I really just don’t mind the travels, it’s part of my life, I love it. I know this is usually what gets the guys at the end, you know: “It’s been enough travelling now, you know, 15-20 years going on a world tour like a musician from January to November and doing it time and time again.” It’s tough. It’s rough, I must tell you, but we found a way with my wife and my family to make it so much fun, to create a home away from home.’