Former player Rainer Schuettler recently claimed that Roger Federer's status in the sport will not suffer a dent even if the Swiss star struggles upon his return.
Federer is expected to make his comeback to the tour on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the 2021 ATP Qatar Open draw. This will be the 39-year-old's first competitive tournament since his defeat to Novak Djokovic in the semis of the 2020 Australian Open.
Rainer Schuetter, meanwhile, is a former World No. 5 who played Roger Federer four times on tour - winning their last encounter (at the Dubai Open) in 2002. While speaking to Eurosport, the German lavished praise on Federer's career and stressed that the Swiss would maintain his status as an all-time great irrespective of how he fares from now on.
"What Roger has achieved and achieved in his career will always remain outstanding," Schuettler said. "He has broken so many records and won tournaments that even a few defeats would not change that."
Roger Federer organizes his tournament schedule very meticulously: Rainer Schuettler
Roger Federer is currently confirmed for the Qatar Open, but is also widely expected to take part in the succeeding Dubai Open. The 39-year-old has, however, withdrawn from the Miami Masters to give himself some rest ahead of a potentially packed claycourt season.
Following the news of his Miami withdrawal, some fans surmised that Federer’s body was yet to attain full fitness and that playing a lot of tournaments could aggravate the issue. But Rainer Schuettler suggested that such a plan was in the works for a long time, and he cited how Federer always carefully schedules his season to give his body some breathing space.
"Roger organizes his tournament schedule and his return to the tour very meticulously and precisely," Schuettler said.
According to the 2003 Australian Open runner-up, Roger Federer knows how to deal with long injury breaks and understands his physical needs exceptionally well.
"Even after his last injury break, Roger showed that a longer break can be expected," Schuettler went on. "He has so much experience and knows his body extremely well."
Roger Federer had missed the entirety of the 2016 season after Wimbledon to tend to his knee injury. But the Swiss scripted a fairytale return the following year, taking home two of the four Grand Slams.
This time, Federer has been out for more than a year and is also four years older than he was in 2017. As such, it would be unwise to expect a season as spectacular as the one in his last comeback.