The beginning of the end for Roger?

 

After almost 20 years on the pro tour, Roger Federer’s body may be starting to get the better of him. This week Federer announced that he will sit out the remainder of the season and miss both the Olympics and the US Open in order to recover from a knee injury he sustained back in January. It was undoubtedly an incredibly tough decision for Roger as he has indicated for a number of years that the 2016 Rio Olympics were a major target of his. Federer has already claimed Olympic Gold; in 2008 he teamed up with Stan Wawrinka to take out the Doubles title at the Beijing Olympics. However it appears almost certain that the singles Olympic Gold is the one major award that will elude him in his illustrious career. Nevertheless Olympics aside, questions remain as to whether he can match it with the top contenders once again.

 

Federer has mentioned that the decision to rest his body was made in an effort to extend his playing career. However he will be 36 next year and only time will tell if he is able to make a full recovery from this injury. The injury has obviously been troubling him for some time. He skipped the French Open (the first grand slam tournament he has missed in 16 years) to better prepare for Wimbledon. But the injury appeared to resurface during the latter half of Wimbledon, particularly during his semi-final match against Milos Raonic. To Roger’s credit, he was still only a few points away from a Wimbledon final, but he wasn’t able to get the job done. Did his body let him down? Or was Raonic just too good? We will probably never know, however there will now, for the first time in his career, be some serious doubts over Roger’s body and whether it can hold up over 2 gruelling weeks of a major tournament, particularly in the 5-set format of the game.

 Whilst I expect Roger to make a decent recovery, it goes without saying that your body is in far better physical condition at 26 than it is at 36. It seems as if it were an eternity ago when he was dominating the sport from 2004 to 2009 and those days of supremacy are all but over for Roger. In recent years he has had trouble at the pointy end of the major tournaments, particularly against Novak Djokovic and this certainly won’t get any easier when he returns next year after 6 months out of the game.

Regardless of the fact that he may not be the dominant force he once was, what he has been able to achieve in recent years has been nothing short of remarkable. He is obviously past his peak yet he is still taking it right up to the very best, some of whom are almost a decade his junior. He probably should have won last year’s US Open. He played a flawless tournament but fell just short in the final. He outplayed Djokovic for extended periods of the match however it was Djokovic who played the better tennis on the big points. Unfortunately for Roger, this is sometimes the difference between winning and losing.

Sadly, I can’t see Roger winning another major, especially after this setback. However I still expect to see him in the second week of grand slam tournaments for a few years to come at least. The fact that he can still challenge the very best despite being well past his peak at 35 years of age is remarkable. In my opinion he will go down as the greatest player of all time. Some may argue that Novak Djokovic will have something to say about this. I will be happily proven wrong if he is playing as well as Roger is when he is 35, which is 6 years away.

Roger clearly loves the game and hopefully this decision will ensure that his millions of fans can see him grace the court at the highest level for at least a few years longer. Regardless of how long he continues to play for, nothing will take away what he has achieved in his career and what he has given to the sport.

 

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