Roger Federer is likely to miss the Australian Open but he is not closing in on retirement, according to his coach Ivan Ljubicic.
Federer is said to be recovering from a third round of knee surgery in 18 months and has played just 13 matches in 2021. The 40-year-old has not played since losing to Hubert Hurkacz in three sets in the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July.
And it looks as though the former world number one will play no part at the Melbourne Slam in January.
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"I think there are very few chances," Ljubicic told Stats Perform.
"He is still recovering and knowing him, he wants to be sure he can play to win the tournament and be at 100%.
So I think the Australian Open is not a real possibility right now. But he will go step by step because he is 40 years old now and he needs to be patient. He cannot recover as quickly as he used to.
Ljubicic’s comments will come as a blow to Australian Open organisers who were hoping to be the Grand Slam to host ‘the big three’ for at least one last time.
There are also questions over whether Novak Djokovic will compete in Australia.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews says only fully vaccinated players and fans will be allowed entry to Melbourne Park and Djokovic is yet to reveal his vaccination status. Tennis Australia has said that negotiations with government over the issue are ongoing.
Rafael Nadal says he aims to be in Melbourne for the first Grand Slam of 2022.
On a more positive note, Ljubicic says he expects Federer to return at some point next year.
He added: “We have spoken and I can guarantee he wants to return to playing tennis. When he decides to stop he will retire, but I don’t think it’s going to happen all of a sudden.”
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