Australian Open 2020: Andy Murray in but Roger Federer out
Roger Federer will miss the Australian Open as he continues his recovery from knee surgery
While the entry lists for the 2021 Australian Open, which has been postponed by three weeks to accommodate a rigid fortnight of quarantine and a packed week of tournament preparation in Melbourne, did include world No5 and six-time former champion Roger Federer, his presence for the first Major of the year always had a question mark.
Recovery from two bouts of knee surgery during 2020 had clearly taken longer than hoped, and just a fortnight ago, at an award ceremony in Switzerland, Federer admitted that his participation in Australia was still in doubt.
He went on to say, “I hope that people will see more of me. But if that was it, this [award] would be an incredible ending.”
He modified that message a day or two later, in an interview for Schweizer Illustrierte, where he confirmed that he and the family would be spending Christmas at his usual training base in Dubai, adding:
“I really have to fully test my knee on the tennis court, in the hope that maybe I’ll be fit enough for the Australian Open. Training indoors in the cold is not exactly ideal.”
With so little court preparation, and after almost a year since he last played competitively—Federer made the semis of the 2020 Australian Open—it always looked like a long shot that he would be ready for a week of ATP tennis followed by up to two weeks of best-of-five matches in a Major.
Add in the prospect of six weeks away from his wife and four children, who normally holiday in Australia as part of an extended Federer stay, and it looked a still less attractive proposition.
Sure enough, the news came yesterday from his agent, Tony Godsick, via the Associated Press:
“Roger has decided not to play the 2021 Australian Open. He has made strong progress in the last couple of months with his knee and his fitness. However, after consultation with his team, he decided that the best decision for him in the long run is to return to competitive tennis after the Australian Open.”
He added: “I will start discussions this coming week for tournaments that begin in late February and then start to build a schedule for the rest of the year.”
Surely the safe money for his return will be on the Dubai Duty Free, though one of Federer’s favourite tournaments, usually played in the last week of February, has yet to confirm its date.
However, the announcement does mark the end of yet another significant milestone in Federer’s remarkably enduring career. He had played every Australian Open since the start of his senior career, 21 of them, and at the age of 38 last January, he passed the 100 match-win mark in Melbourne. He can count six titles from seven finals in that span, and only twice since 2003 has he fallen before the semis.
There was better news from another stalwart of the Australian Open, however. Former world No1 and three-time Major champion, Andy Murray, was awarded a wild card by the tournament, compensating for a current ranking of 122.
It was in Australia almost two years ago that Murray followed a painful five-set loss in the first round with an announcement that he was considering immediate retirement.
He subsequently went on to have major hip surgery, and his convalescence and rehab also required months of patience and not a few disappointments, not least a pelvic injury that ended 2019 prematurely, and forced him to miss the Australian swing this January.
Of course, he was then sidelined with the rest of the tennis tour until August, due to the coronavirus pandemic, and went on to win just three out of seven matches.
Murray may have only played twice in the last four years ‘down under’, but before that he made five finals in seven years, reaching at least the quarters through a span of seven years.
Tournament Director, Craig Tiley, said:
“We welcome Andy back to Melbourne with open arms. As a five-time finalist he has been an integral part of so many amazing matches and storylines in the recent history of the Australian Open.
“His retirement was an emotional moment, and seeing him come back, having undergone major surgery, and build himself back up to get onto the tour again, will be a highlight of AO 2021.”
Also receiving a wild card is Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, who has not played a tour match since the 2019 US Open. He missed the 2020 Australian Open due to glandular fever.
Murray will undertake his Australia preparation at the rescheduled Delray Beach Open at the start of January, after the tournament also offered the Briton a wild card. He will be joined in the draw by four former tournament winners, Reilly Opelka (2020), Frances Tiafoe (2018), Sam Querrey (2017) and Kei Nishikori (2008).