Federer won’t retire in 2021, according to coach Luthi
Roger Federer is unlikely to retire in 2021 and should be expected to play a full season, according to his coach Severin Luthi.
Federer, who will turn 39 this week, is always surrounded by retirement speculation, which has been further fuelled by the events of the 2020 season. First, Federer underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in February and declared he would not play until the grass-court season; then the season was suspended in mid-March due to the global health crisis; thirdly, Federer needed to have a second surgery after his recovery from the first one did not go as well as expected, and announced he would not play in 2020 despite the ATP Tour planning to resume in August.
But long-time coach Severin Luthi, who has also served as Switzerland’s Davis Cup captain since 2005, believes that despite multiple surgeries and the prospect of turning 40 while still competing on the ATP Tour, Federer’s retirement is not imminent.
Talking to Swiss magazine Smash, Luthi said:
‘Roger still loves life on the circuit, I’ve never heard him say that he should stop because he wants a change of lifestyle or that he’s tired of travelling.
‘Nothing can be 100% ruled out but given that he still loves tennis and the time he spends with the friends that he has everywhere, I don’t think he’s thinking of retiring in 2021.’
Luthi’s comments are backed up by an interview Federer recently gave to the Business of Fashion podcast to promote a new trainer, in which Federer revealed he was embarking on a 20-week fitness training block in order to prepare for 2021 and talked about his enduring passion for his tennis life:
‘[A]s 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.’
Federer and his team have a very solid precedent for believing that the 20-time champion can come back from a lengthy hiatus and quickly regain his best form – he’s done it before. In 2016, Federer shut down his season after Wimbledon, having undergone surgery on his left knee earlier in the year. When he returned to competition in January 2017, he won his first major title in five years at the Australian Open, defeating long-time nemesis Rafael Nadal in the final. He went on to win Wimbledon the same year.
‘It’s true, there are parallels with 2016. Perhaps he could use that to his advantage. The truth is that this injury arrived at the best possible moment.
‘The day after the operation he was looking forward to a new phase in which he would spend him with his family. He has a unique capacity to be very ambitious without getting frustrated with the unexpected.’
Could history repeat itself and see Federer return from sabbatical to triumph at the 2021 Australian Open?
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.’
‘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.
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.”
‘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.’
Roger Federer’s coach Severin Luthi has given a positive update on the Swiss great’s recovery from his knee surgery: ‘We’re focused on next season.’
Luthi reported that Federer is doing well and will soon resume fitness training in the wake of undergoing a second operation this year.
The 38-year-old Federer had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in February, after a turbulent Australian Open campaign ended with a semifinal defeat at the hands of Novak Djokovic.
Federer, who has won 20 Grand Slams titles, initially hoped to be back for Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics. But when the season was suspended in mid-March due to the global COVID-19 health crisis, with Wimbledon subsequently cancelled and the Olympics postponed until 2021, Federer – whose recovery from February’s surgery had not been as quick as respected – decided to shut down his 2020 season entirely and undergo a second knee surgery.
Consequently, Federer will not be playing at the US Open, which is scheduled to be played behind closed doors in New York from 31 August-13 September. He had already decided to skip the clay season and the French Open, which will take place in Paris from 27 September-11 October.
‘Roger is doing well,’ Luthi told Swiss broadcaster SRF.
‘Rehabilitation has gone according to plan after the second surgery.
‘No big intensity until now, he will start a physical fitness block with Pierre Paganini shortly. First priority is that Roger Federer gets 100% healthy again.’
The longevity at the top of the sport enjoyed by Federer, who will turn 39 in August, has defied all conventional wisdom, and there are constant questions, rumours and speculation about when the all-time great will finally call time on his career.
Many feared that he would not be able to return for another season after being effectively denied a 2020 season by injury and then the global suspension of sport.
But Luthi’s report suggests that nothing could be further from the truth.
‘The nice thing is that with Roger you still get the feeling you‘re on court with a junior and not with a player who‘s rather at the end of his career.
‘Those are perfect conditions, we’re focused on next season.’
There is precedent for making a successful comeback from the kind of knee surgery and lengthy absence from the sport that Federer has undergone – in the man himself.
Federer shut down his 2016 season in July to have a similar arthroscopic procedure on his left knee after injuring himself while running a bath for his twin daughters. He returned to the sport six months later and won the Australian Open in his first official tournament back before picking up his eighth Wimbledon title that summer.