Covid restrictions ‘deterred Roger Federer from travelling’ ahead of Australian Open withdrawal through injury as the six-time champion plots potential Grand Slam return at Wimbledon
- Roger Federer pulled out of the 2021 Australian Open after two knee operations
- The former world number one could have seen restrictions as an extra deterrant
- Federer’s family and support team would have been depleted had he taken part
- The Swiss legend could now target a Grand Slam return at Wimbledon next year
Roger Federer has participated in the last 22 Australian Opens, so his absence from February’s rescheduled edition will perturb his global legion of fans.
The 39 year-old Swiss has withdrawn, citing the continuing wait to fully recover from knee surgeries. By the end of next month he will not have played for a whole year.
Late on Sunday night his agent Tony Godsick issued a statement to Associated Press backtracking on his confirmed entry of the previous week.
Roger Federer has withdrawn from the Australian Open to continue his recovery from injuries
Federer would have had to curb his usual entourage had he taken part in the 2021 tournament
Describing his client as having made ‘strong progress’ with his fitness after practising in Dubai, the decision was made to abort the trip with the pledge to ‘start to build a schedule for the rest of the year’ from late February onwards.
According to one well-placed source Federer is in good physical shape, but an additional deterrent to travelling are the Covid measures being imposed.
He would usually embark on a trip Down Under accompanied by his wife Mirka and two sets of twins, now aged six and eleven, as well as his retinue of support staff.
This time even ex-champions are being restricted to an allowance of just two fellow travellers, although there may be some leeway to slightly increase numbers. A ceiling of 1,000 international arrivals in total has been set by local health authorities.
This year’s edition is likely to place significant restrictions upon players in order to boost safety
All of them will have to undergo two weeks of quarantine in which they will only be allowed out of their rooms for five strictly-controlled hours per day.
Visiting a country obsessed by rules and regulations in the best of times, they are not allowed to choose their accommodation either.
Federer’s direct contemporary and fellow superstar Serena Williams appears to be okay with this, although the restrictions state that children aged three or under are exempt, which covers her daughter Olympia.
The Australian Open will not be the last tournament operating under straitened conditions but, regardless, the great Swiss is apparently intent on picking up when the reshaped calendar emerges for late February and beyond.
This will bring sighs of relief to tournaments hoping to attract the player who remains the sport’s number one drawcard, even with fading powers.
In this festive period it is apt to describe Federer as ‘evergreen’ but the slow recovery of his right knee suggests time is finally catching up with someone turning 40 next year.
When he underwent an arthroscopy on his knee last February he pledged to be back by what turned out to be a non-existent grass swing. Then in July he announced the shutting down of his season due to a second minor operation. Now the date has been pushed back again.
So while the rest of the tennis world are being herded onto socially distanced flights southwards, to arrive Down Under on the two allotted days in mid-January, Federer will be shaping his future plans.
Four key dates are likely to stand out for him as he plots his way forward.
The first is Wimbledon, where he will be desperate to play once again and which, with a following wind, he could still win with full health and preparation.
Shortly afterwards will be the Olympics, a singles gold medal being the one thing in tennis that has eluded him. There is also his enormous clothing deal with Japanese manufacturers Uniqlo to consider.
Also looming large will be the Laver Cup in September, the team event which is his part brainchild and promoted by his management group. Due to be staged in Boston, it was one of many events to perish in 2020 and has been put back a year.
There are some who believe he may continue to feature in this even after retirement from the tour. Unlike the vast majority of players, a lucrative after-career playing exhibitions beckons, such is his pulling power.
Then there is the ATP event in Basle next October. If he was to bow out of the circuit then this tournament, in his hometown and where he was once a ballkid, might be the place.
Yet it should be said that, beyond all the trimmings, above all Federer just loves playing tennis. He wants to carry on, without doubt.
And it may just be that he has looked at the situation in Melbourne, and supposed that just one significant outbreak of Covid there in the next few weeks might lead to its tennis being cancelled anyway.
All-time great Federer could now target a Grand Slam return at Wimbledon 2021 in the summer
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