The last thing we can do to a champion is write him off. Champions have time and again proven their naysayers wrong, and they have a mental makeup that is very different from ordinary mortals.
But then again, there comes a point of time when time imposes its will on even the greatest of athletes. Even though the mind might be ever so willing and ready, after a while the body simply refuses to co-operate.
Yesterday, the legendary Roger Federer announced that he underwent a knee surgery that will rule him out of action for the next three months, And this is coming at a time when he is pushing 40 years of age, at a time when he has gone eight Grand Slams without adding to his collection, at a time when the ‘Next Gen’ is breathing down his neck, and at a time when his great rival Rafael Nadal is just one Slam away from equaling his record tally of 20 titles.
These are Federer's exact words about the setback, which he revealed on social media:
"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 surgery the doctors confirmed that it was the right thing to have done and are very confident of a full recovery. I can't wait to be back playing again soon, see you on grass.”
Federer will return for the grasscourt season and play Wimbledon, a Slam where he is adored as the king, where he has triumphed eight times in his illustrious career. But even there, the crown that adorned his head is slipping away. In the last decade Federer triumphed at Wimbledon twice, while Novak Djokovic won the title a staggering five times in the same period.
At the French Open, Federer is not even a contender for the title. It seems as though Nadal has put a permanent spell on the courts of clay, and it looks like he will triumph there as long as he continues playing.
The Australian Open has become Djokovic’s forte. The Serbian legend has won the title Down Under seven times in the last decade, and looks all set to tighten the stranglehold even further.
Federer last won the US Open title 12 years back in the year 2008, and it is highly unlikely that he will ever add to his US Open collection at this stage.
Does this mean that it is the end of the road for possibly the greatest tennis player of all time?
Federer will never admit that the sunset is around the corner for he is a champion par excellence, and champions just do not quit. But if we have to confront reality head on, a knee surgery at the age of 38 is an alarming sign. This is the second surgery that Federer has undergone in the last four years (he underwent a left knee surgery in 2016 too), which shows that his body is starting to rebel.
Federer will turn 39 this year, and he is definitely not getting younger. Yes, he will still produce that jaw-dropping drop shot that enrapture us, he might still stroke that single-handed backhand like a sorcerer, he might still conjure that liquid whip forehand that makes everyone gape in awe. But at the age of 38, Federer might not have what it takes to win another Grand Slam.
An injury at this stage of his career might well mean that the career of the ‘GOAT’ is nearing its climax. Are his fans prepared for the moment when they have to say goodbye?Published 21 Feb 2020, 16:37 IST