As the tennis world debates when it will be safe to resume official competition, Roger Federer has made it clear he will not return to the courts in 2020.
On Wednesday, he announced that he recently had a second operation on his right knee and that he would not play again this year.
Federer, 38, first had surgery on the knee in February, shortly after reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open and playing an exhibition match with Rafael Nadal in Cape Town, South Africa.
“A few weeks ago, having experienced a setback during my initial rehabilitation, I had to have an additional quick arthroscopic procedure,” Federer said on social media. “I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly, but I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season.”
Federer would probably have seen few fans in the stands if he had played again this year. The coronavirus pandemic has canceled all play on tour since mid-March, and if competition does resume, it will most likely be without spectators (or with very few of them).
Federer, who will turn 39 in August, has said the reason he has played so many years with evident enthusiasm is his connection to the public, and he is typically a crowd favorite.
He still holds the men’s record for Grand Slam singles titles with 20. But his longtime rivals Nadal and Novak Djokovic have closed the gap. Nadal, 34, has 19 major singles titles. Djokovic, 33, won his 17th at this year’s Australian Open after beating the ailing Federer in a semifinal.
But it is unclear whether Nadal and Djokovic will have the opportunity to add to their totals in 2020. Wimbledon, which was Federer’s initial target for his return, was canceled for the first time since 1945.
For now, the two remaining Grand Slam tournaments in 2020 are the United States Open, which is scheduled from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13, and the French Open, which has been rescheduled for late September and early October with precise dates to be determined.
U.S. Open officials plan to announce next week whether their tournament can be played. But concerns about the pandemic and the players’ ability to travel internationally could still force the U.S. Open and French Open to be canceled.
While players and officials weigh the pros and cons of resuming play, Federer will observe (and rehabilitate) from afar, in the company of his wife, Mirka, and four children.
In a grueling individual sport, he has been a remarkably durable champion. He did not have a significant injury until 2016, when he required surgery on his left knee, which caused him to take a six-month break from the game.
When he returned in 2017, he won the Australian Open and Wimbledon and went on to win the Australian Open again in 2018 before regaining the No. 1 ranking at age 36, which made him the oldest man to reach the top spot.
“Now, much like I did leading up to the 2017 season, I plan to take the necessary time to be 100 percent ready to play at my highest level,” Federer said in his statement.
He is still ranked No. 4 despite having played just six official matches and only one tour event in 2020. Those are his lowest totals in any season since he joined the tour full time in 1999.
But this has been a season unlike any other, and it remains unclear just how much tennis Federer will end up missing.