For the first time in six years, there will be no Roger Federer featuring in the ATP week of the Dubai Tennis Championship later this month and the news of his withdrawal — due to an arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus — is a setback for the event and his loyal fanbase.
But what kind of an impact will it have on Federer? That seems to be the bigger question at the moment.
The cause of the injury is still unknown, nor do we know much about the severity of the tear. Reports have claimed he got injured a day after his loss to Novak Djokovic in the semi-final of the Australian Open, with the Swiss newspaper Le Matin reporting Federer injured his knee while spending time with his daughters in a Melbourne park.
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However, a report in the Australian newspaper Courier-Mail early last month, when Federer was playing Brisbane, had claimed his “ability to play through the Brisbane International is under a cloud, with locker room rumours that he has consulted a doctor before his first scheduled match”.
So the facts about the injury remain sketchy. This is the first time in his career Federer, 34, is having a surgery — or at least, this is the first time he has publicly acknowledged it — and given his age, how will that impact his performance on the court in what is a big year for the world No 3?
He is still hunting for that elusive 18th grand slam title, more than three years after winning his last one at Wimbledon in 2012. Plus, there are is the bid to win an Olympic singles gold medal at the Rio Games in the summer, arguably the only thing missing from his trophy cabinet, and given he would be 38 in 2020 when the Games in Tokyo takes place, this is his last chance.
In the past, we have seen players such as Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal struggle in the early days of their return from surgeries.
Federer himself struggled through the 2013 season with a lingering back problem, but this injury is different.
He has never experienced an injury of this magnitude before and probably that is the reason he has not put a time frame on his return.
“My doctors have ensured me that the surgery was a success and with proper rehabilitation, I will be able to return to the Tour soon,” Federer said in a statement following the surgery, without even hinting about a possible return date or the required rehabilitation period.
How soon is “soon” then? The tennis world will hope it will be sooner rather than later, although sadly it will be too late for Dubai this year.
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