Roger Federer to miss Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami and French Open after knee surgery

Federer was scheduled to start Dubai defence in a few days’ time; plans to return for grass season

Marianne Bevis
By Marianne Bevis
Roger Federer
Roger Federer (Photo: Marianne Bevis)

It is less than two weeks ago that Roger Federer was facing off against Rafael Nadal in front of a record 52,000 fans to raise $3.5 million for his Foundation.

It was his first match in his mother’s homeland of South Africa, and he could take the smile off his face as he admitted, “It will be a once-in-a-lifetime moment for my family and I.”

But today came news that has surely wiped the smile off his face as well as the faces of fans who had anticipated seeing Federer play this week in Dubai, then in Indian Wells and Miami, and at the tennis tour’s next Major jamboree at Roland Garros.

After undergoing knee surgery yesterday, the world No3 has been forced to withdraw from all those events, as well as his planned return to Bogota after the Colombia leg of his December exhibition tour of South America was called off amid a last-minute curfew in the city.

In a statement on Twitter, Federer said:

“My right knee has been bothering me for a little while. I hoped it would go away, but after an examination, and discussion with my team, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery in Switzerland yesterday.

“After the procedure, the doctors confirmed that it was the right thing to have done and are very confident of a full recovery. As a result, I will unfortunately have to miss Dubai, Indian Wells, Bogota, Miami and the French Open.

“I am grateful for everyone’s support. I can’t wait to be back playing again soon—see you on the grass!”

His Match for Africa in Cape Town was only his second appearance this year. He reached the Australian Open semi-final after bypassing the Australian build-up, having won the now-missing Hopman Cup in 2018 and 2019.

Withdrawal from all the tournaments before Halle and Wimbledon will hit his ranking hard, as the Swiss put together a strong spring and early summer in 2019. He was scheduled to defend his Dubai title next week, and thereafter he was defending runner-up points in Indian Wells and the maximum 1,000 points from winning Miami last year.

The Swiss had already made it clear that he would not be playing any clay events in the run-up to the French Open, though on his return to the red stuff last year after a three-year absence, he reached the quarters at both the Madrid and Rome Masters.

After similar surgery to his left knee at the start of 2016, Federer attempted to return during the clay swing, but knee and consequent back problems eventually forced him to pull out of the French Open, and as part of his ongoing plan to reduce his overall schedule, he did not return to Paris until last year, reaching the semi-final. This latest withdrawal means, therefore, that he will have played at Roland Garros just once in five years.

The long view, though, may be a more optimistic one. After Federer opted out of the entire second half of 2016, and with a ranking of 17, he returned to win the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017, together with three Masters titles. He went on to win his 20th Major in Australia in 2018, and regained the No1 ranking with the title in Rotterdam. Last year, he won his 100th title in Dubai, went on to claim three more titles, and reached the final at Wimbledon.

Two big dates loom for the Swiss this summer, and the timing of his surgery, along with his revised schedule, may well be motivated by both. Federer will turn 39 in early August—and 2020 will surely be his last chance to claim the one title missing from his resume, a singles gold medal at the Olympics.

The Games are due to begin in Tokyo after Wimbledon, and Federer will hope that history does not repeat itself: He missed the last Olympics in Rio because of that previous knee surgery.

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