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Roger Federer feared he would be forced to retire in 2016

  • Speaking with Gustavo Kuerten, Roger Federer expressed his fears of an early retirement after undergoing surgery in 2016
  • The Swiss added that he was nervous about his knee situation, but surprised himself with his successful return in 2017.
Modified 23 May 2020, 06:18 IST

Roger Federer
Roger Federer

In a conversation with his idol Gustavo Kuerten, Roger Federer revealed how he had feared an early retirement after suffering the first major injury of his career in 2016 - an injury that necessitated surgery.

On the request of Kuerten, Roger Federer readily agreed to join the 'Vencendo Juntos' campaign, which translates to 'Winning Together' in English. The initiative aims at raising $10 million to help 35,000 Brazilian families affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

During his interaction with Kuerten where he accepted the Brazilian's invitation, Roger Federer confided that after suffering the injury in 2016, he had a difficult year and wondered if his career had drawn to a premature close.

"I had the injury in 2016. And it was a very difficult year. I had thoughts, of course. 'Is this going to be the end?"" 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion eventually managed to convince himself that the surgery was not going to end his career. He was, however, surprised at his successful return in 2017, which saw him win two Grand Slams in a season for the first time in eight years.

"But I really felt that this surgery was not going to end my career," Roger Federer said. "I believed I would have a second chance. And I did. That was a big surprise for me. I was able to return in 2017 very strong, not only at the Australian Open, but throughout the year. That was really cool." 

Roger Federer further told Kuerten that since it was the first surgery of his career, he was unsure about its aftermath. He further said that he was so disturbed by the surgery that he hoped he would never have another one during his career.

"It was my first surgery, I wasn't sure how to deal with it. Because I really thought, 'I don't want to have another surgery in my career.' And it definitely tested my mind,” said Federer.

What necessitated Roger Federer's surgery in 2016?

Roger Federer after his loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2016 Australian Open semifinals
Roger Federer after his loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2016 Australian Open semifinals

A day after losing to eventual winner Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinal, the then 34-year-old Roger Federer heard a 'click' in his left knee while taking his twin daughters to the bathroom.

"It happened the day after the game against Djokovic," Federer said. "I woke up, I don't remember exactly how the movement was, but I felt pain. I was going to take the girls (their daughters) to the bathroom, I heard a click, and then I went for a walk." 

Roger Federer then returned to Switzerland, where he was told to have a surgery on his injured knee. The right-hander admitted having nervousness tinged with sadness at the situation.

"I returned to Switzerland and the doctor told me to have the surgery. When I received the news that I had to have the operation, I understood, saw the images and believed in the doctor. At the hospital, before going to surgery, I was very nervous and sad about all of that. "

On waking up (after the surgery), Roger Federer felt scared at first as he had temporarily lost sensation in his leg. But the sensation returned soon enough, and that helped drive away his fear.

"When I woke up, I looked at my knee, I didn't feel my leg, I was scared. So two, three days later, I was no longer in pain," Federer said.

Eventually, positive thinking aided with regular exercise during an extended stay at home helped the Swiss return to the circuit stronger than ever before. And the rest, as they say, is history.

"I was thinking positively," Federer said. "I exercised two to three times a day during recovery. I was able to stay in Switzerland for five weeks, which is rare for us, staying at home for so long. I was able to enjoy more time with my family, away from the circuit. I thought it would be more like massage, rest, but it was hard work. I liked this process, if it makes any sense to you."

Four years was deja vu again

Roger Federer at the 2020 Australian Open
Roger Federer at the 2020 Australian Open

Roger Federer started the 2020 season with a run to the Australian Open semifinals, where he fell to defending champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets. But days before he was scheduled to arrive at the Dubai Open for his title defence, the 38-year-old made an announcement regarding another surgery on a 'bothersome' right knee.

After an arthroscopic procedure on his troublesome knee, Roger Federer sounded upbeat about a full recovery. He even expressed plans of rejoining the tour during the grasscourt leg.

However, as things turned out, the COVID-19 outbreak forced the ATP to suspend the tour till the end of July.

Roger Federer is enjoying the rare downtime with his family in Switzerland. The right-hander admitted that he is not training at the moment as he doesn't foresee the return of the tour any time soon.

"I’m not training at the moment because I don’t see a reason for that to be honest. I am happy with my body now and I still believe that the (final) lap of the circuit is a long way off. And I think it’s important for my head at this point to enjoy this break after playing so much tennis." 

Published 23 May 2020, 06:18 IST
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