Will Roger Federer’s Injury Prevent Him From Winning another Grand Slam?

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Tennis great Roger Federer has announced that he’ll miss the rest of the 2016 season, including the Rio Olympics and US Open. This is to receive “extensive rehabilitation [1]” following his knee surgery earlier in the year. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has had a less than ideal 2016, but appeared to be back to his best following a strong showing at Wimbledon 2016. Unfortunately the writing may have been on the wall when the Swiss had to call for the trainer on two separate occasions during his semifinal against Milos Raonic. The big question is will Roger Federer’s injury significantly harm his quest for an 18th Grand Slam title?

The Swiss went under the knife in February, for the first time in his career, after injuring his knee while drawing a bath for his twin daughters. Federer looked in decent form before his injury and managed to reach the Australian Open semifinals. Similarly, after missing the French Open due to a back injury, he looked to be back to something resembling his best at Wimbledon. Unfortunately for Federer and his legions of supporters his hopes of lifting an eighth SW19 crown were dashed by Milos Raonic.

 

What are the consequences for Federer?

Of course the immediate consequences are that he’ll miss the Rio Olympics and the US Open. Federer will be particularly hurt by missing the Olympics. Surprisingly, he’s never managed to win Olympic singles gold during his star-studded career. Missing Rio really emphasizes the severity of Federer’s injury as Olympic gold really is the one that got away.

There’s another side to the coin here, as Federer’s Rio absence is also a massive blow to the Olympics itself. Rio could’ve done with some star power after the likes of Berdych, Raonic, Thiem, and Kyrgios pulled out due to Zika virus fears [2]. A potential star-studded event instead looks likely to be a small selection of top tennis stars.

 

Will he ever win a Grand Slam again?

There’s no denying that the odds are firmly against him, but if anyone can beat them it’s Federer. Tennis is currently a game for older players. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are consistently battling for major titles and both are 29 years old. Similarly, older players are using their experience and physical strength to their advantage and it shows in the results [3]. Moreover, since winning his last Grand Slam in 2012 Federer has still reached the latter stages of major tournaments. In 2015 he reached two finals (Wimbledon and US Open) and in 2016 two semifinals.

Federer’s playing style also gives him a better chance at a full recovery. Yes he’s an aggressor, but compared to others he’s smooth and glides around the court. It never seems like he’s putting his body under the level of strain that Murray, Djokovic or Nadal do. Consequently, if the Swiss does return, he may be more likely to avoid another injury setback.

Few opportunities may come Federer’s way, but he always has a chance on the grass at Wimbledon. His game suits the surface and there’s a reason why he has won there seven times.

He can also take solace in his friend and rival Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard managed to win major titles after making comebacks in 2009 and 2013. However Nadal was in his 20s then and has struggled to regain his previous winning form since returning in 2014 [4].

Only seven players who have won three or more Majors managed to play in a Grand Slam when 35 or above. The only one to win one (he actually won three) was Ken Rosewall. He amazingly won the 1972 Australian Open at the age of 37 [5].

Capturing another Major will be a challenge both mentally and physically. With the Swiss not planning on returning until 2017 his ranking will fall dramatically. He’ll be outside of the world’s top 16 by the Australian Open and will face a difficult draw.

 

Retirement?

The post-Federer era is approaching, that’s for sure. Some may say the Swiss great should retire now and not risk damaging his legacy.

“The love I have for tennis, the competition, tournaments and of course you, the fans remains intact. I am as motivated as ever and plan to put all my energy towards coming back strong, healthy and in shape to play attacking tennis in 2017 [6],” Federer stated.

It doesn’t sound like a player who sees retirement on the horizon. It sounds like a player who fully believes he can win that elusive 18th Grand Slam title.

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