Analysis: Federer sees ‘end is near,’ hopes for on-court bye

Nov 16, 2021, 11:48 PM | Updated: Nov 17, 2021, 1:52 pm
FILE - Switzerland's Roger Federer plays a return to Poland's Hubert Hurkacz during the men's singl...

FILE - Switzerland's Roger Federer plays a return to Poland's Hubert Hurkacz during the men's singles quarterfinals match on day nine of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Wednesday, July 7, 2021. With Roger Federer saying he will sit out the Australian Open in January and also could miss Wimbledon in 2022, the notion that he really might not have many -- or perhaps even any -- high-level matches left becomes all the more real. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)

Just before the start of Wimbledon in late June, Roger Federer recalled a conversation about retirement that he had with Pete Sampras a decade ago.

“He was wondering how much longer I had in the tank. This was when I was just hitting 30,” Federer said. “He was thinking I was coming towards the end or something, just because it was, for him, normal that at 31, 33 — with the career that we’ve had, with all the sacrifice, in a way, you have to go through — it’s hard to keep on pushing for more years on tour.”

Federer, who turned 40 in August, went on to explain that he never thought he’d still be going at this age, especially after a series of knee operations. With Wednesday’s news that not only will he sit out the Australian Open in January but also expects to miss Wimbledon in 2022, the notion that Federer really might not have many — or perhaps even any — high-level performances left in him becomes all the more real.

To his fans, to his sport at large and, most importantly, to the man himself.

“Even if I know that the end is near, I want to try and play some more big matches. That will not be easy, but I want to try,” Federer said in an interview published in the Tribune de Genève newspaper.

“Let’s be clear: My life is not going to fall apart if I don’t play another Grand Slam final. But that would be the ultimate dream — to get back there,” he said. “I want to see one last time what I’m capable of as a professional tennis player.”

That is a sentiment surely shared by plenty of others.

Count Novak Djokovic among them.

“Obviously, Roger is an icon of our sport, and people around the world love him. They love watching him play; they love seeing him around. He is very important for our sport, on and off the court,” Djokovic said Wednesday in Turin, Italy, where he is competing at the ATP Tour Finals. “So for the sake of our sport, I sincerely hope that we can see him play, at least another time.”

Federer, who shares the men’s record of 20 major singles championships with Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, has not competed since undergoing surgery on his right knee for the third time in 1 1/2 years. That procedure to repair his meniscus and cartilage came not long after Federer lost 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-0 to Hubert Hurkacz in the quarterfinals on July 7 at Wimbledon, where he has won eight titles.

Federer was physically compromised that day against an opponent never previously past the third round at a Slam. That was only the third 6-0 shutout handed to Federer in 429 Grand Slam matches.

That’s why, in the interview published Wednesday, Federer said his fans “deserve better than the image left during the grass-court season,” even if he also figures, correctly, that the lasting memory of his play would be his triumphs and “how they felt watching me play,” rather than the stumble against Hurkacz.

He acknowledged he needs to be patient as he works to recover and rehabilitate, drawing a distinction with 2016, when he missed half a season following an operation on his left knee, then won three of the first four majors he entered after returning.

As of now, Federer is aiming to be able to jog in January and resume tennis work two or three months after that.

“I’m sure that he doesn’t want to end his career this way. I think he’s going to definitely going to try to give it the last push,” said Djokovic, who eclipsed Federer’s record for most weeks atop the ATP rankings and Sampras’ mark for most years finished at No. 1. “For everything that he has achieved and created for this sport, he deserves to play and he deserves to have a proper farewell.”

As the long-ago chat with Sampras (or, as Federer calls him, “Pistol”) illustrated, people have been asking the Swiss star forever about how much longer he plans to play.

“We would all like that I could say goodbye in my way and on the tennis court,” Federer said, adding: “In absolute terms, there’s not a right moment to leave. Just the right moment for each athlete.”

___ AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.


Howard Fendrich covers tennis for The Associated Press. Follow him at or write to him at [email protected]


More AP tennis: and

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Arizona Diamondbacks' Sergio Alcantara reacts after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh i...
Associated Press

Brewers’ playoff hopes end despite 6-5 win over Diamondbacks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Hunter Renfroe homered in a ninth-inning comeback and singled home the winning run in the 10th but the Milwaukee Brewers were eliminated from postseason contention on Monday night despite a 6-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Brewers knew at the start of the night they could earn the NL’s final wild-card […]
21 hours ago
Philadelphia Phillies' Kyle Schwarber (12) celebrates after hitting a home run against the Houston ...
Associated Press

Phillies down Astros for 1st playoff berth since 2011

HOUSTON (AP) — Aaron Nola took a perfect game into the seventh inning and Kyle Schwarber homered twice as the Philadelphia Phillies clinched their first playoff berth in 11 years with a 3-0 win over the Houston Astros on Monday night. After Brandon Marsh caught Mauricio Dubon’s fly ball in center for for the game’s […]
21 hours ago
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) runs toward the end zone to score against the L...
Associated Press

49ers use defense, Deebo Samuel to beat Rams 24-9

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Deebo Samuel turned a short catch into an electric 57-yard touchdown, Talanoa Hufanga returned an interception for a score and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Los Angeles Rams 24-9 Monday night. Jeff Wilson Jr. also scored on a 32-yard run that gave the Niners (2-2) their seventh straight regular-season […]
21 hours ago
Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Johnny Cueto delivers during the first inning of a baseball game...
Associated Press

Cueto helps White Sox beat Twins after La Russa steps down

CHICAGO (AP) — Asked about Tony La Russa, an emotional Miguel Cairo had to pause and take a drink of water to regain his composure. It was that kind of day. The Chicago White Sox watched La Russa step down as manager, and then beat the Minnesota Twins 3-2 on Monday night behind Johnny Cueto’s […]
21 hours ago
Brooklyn Nets guard Ben Simmons (10) points during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball gam...
Associated Press

Simmons, Kawhi, Jamal Murray back among NBA happy returns

NEW YORK (AP) — Ben Simmons streaked behind the defense and caught a pass in transition that he dunked. About a minute later, he fired a cross-court pass to a Brooklyn Nets teammate for a 3-pointer. Those were the types of plays the Philadelphia 76ers had seen many times before. On Monday, Simmons finally made […]
21 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow delivers during the first inning of a baseball game a...
Associated Press

Rays lose 4-3 to Red Sox, move closer to 6th playoff seed

BOSTON (AP) — Tyler Glasnow gave playoff-bound Tampa Bay a short but strong start in his second outing since Tommy John surgery last year, but the Boston Red Sox rallied against the bullpen for a 4-3 victory on Monday night, extending the Rays’ skid to four games. Boston pushed Tampa Bay closer to the No. […]
21 hours ago
Analysis: Federer sees ‘end is near,’ hopes for on-court bye