When it comes to Roger Federer, it’s finally time to start thinking about the F word. And then the R word. Farewell. And retirement.
That appears to be the way that Federer’s career is heading after his latest announcement that he is going to miss the 2022 Australian Open as he recovers from surgery and is unlikely to even be fit for Wimbledon in eight months’ time. There is a chance Federer never returns – “my life is not going to fall apart if I don’t play a Grand Slam final again” - but he seems determined to do so.
"My ambition is to see what I’m capable of one last time. I also wish I could say goodbye in my own way and on a tennis court. That’s why I’m giving my all in my rehabilitation.”
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Having missed almost the entirety of 2020 following two knee surgeries, Federer has played just 13 matches this season, the last of which was a humbling straight-sets defeat to Hubert Hurkacz in the Wimbledon quarter-finals. That loss – which finished with his very first 0-6 set at Wimbledon - has clearly stuck in his mind.
“My fans deserve better than the image of my last grass season,” he said as he reiterated his intent to play again. “When you get right down to it, it doesn't make much difference whether I return in 2022 or not until 2023, at 40 or 41… it would be the ultimate dream to go back. And in fact, I still believe in it. I believe in these kinds of miracles.”
If Federer is already potentially looking at 2023 for a return then a farewell tour - rather than a desire to win another Grand Slam title - must be on his mind. But what would the “ultimate dream” be for the 20-time Grand Slam champion at this stage of his career?

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Return to New York

If Federer is not making Wimbledon next year then it seems unlikely that he will return at all until 2023. However, if his final goodbye is to come at Wimbledon – spoiler alert! – then next year could be his last chance to play at the US Open. Long gone are the days when Federer dominated in New York - he hasn’t made it past the quarter-finals since he was runner-up in 2015 - but he is still beloved and adored in the Big Apple.
In a dream scenario he would be fit enough to play next year’s US Open and then rest and recover for the remainder of the season ahead of the farewell tour proper commencing in 2023.

Aus in New York für Roger Federer

Image credit: Getty Images

One last trip Down Under

Of the four Grand Slams, the Australian Open has seen the best of Federer in recent years.
It was in Melbourne that Federer played his only major of 2020 – losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals – and two years earlier he won his 20th Grand Slam title there at the age of 36. A year earlier he beat Rafael Nadal in a thrilling final, having been out of action for six months due to injury.
It would be a long way to travel, and who knows what the Covid-19 protocols might be in 2023, but it would be fitting if Federer bid farewell to Melbourne.

Roger Federer bei den Australian Open 2018

Image credit: Eurosport

Geneva and then onto the grass

What happens next depends on how healthy, and how ambitious, Federer is feeling.
Indian Wells and the Miami Open both follow the Australian Open in a non-Covid disrupted year, and there’s also the clay season before attentions turn to the grass. If Federer has his sights firmly set on the summer then perhaps he would take a few months off after Melbourne, maybe just setting foot on the clay to play in Geneva, in his home country of Switzerland, as he did this year. Given he has only played the French Open twice since 2015, he may opt to leave Paris off his farewell tour.
After Geneva it would be full steam ahead to the Halle Open, which is his most successful tournament, having won it 10 times. His last victory came in 2019, but this year he was beaten in his second match by Felix Auger Aliassime.
And then Wimbledon, surely the final stop on the tour.

Roger Federer celebrates with the Wimbledon trophy

Image credit: Getty Images

Federer was given an enormous standing ovation when he left the court after his defeat to Hurkacz this year, and one can only imagine what sort of reception he would get if he returned to the All England Club. If he is in top shape then could he still be a contender?
He showed this season that his grass-court experience counts for plenty as he made it to the quarter-finals without too much trouble, after navigating a tricky opener against Adrian Mannarino. It would be the ultimate farewell if he could go even further than the last eight, but that might be asking too much.
Perhaps what seems most likely is that Federer’s farewell will actually be a short one. If he does get back to full fitness, will he risk another injury playing on hard courts in New York and Melbourne? Or will he save himself for one last run on the grass in 2023 and the best chance to bow out with a strong showing at Wimbledon?
“Even though I know that the end is near, I want to try to play some big matches again. It won't be easy, but I will try."
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