Roger Federer in action during the 2019 Wimbledon Championships. The Swiss superstar is making his … [+]
Roger Federer hasn’t played tennis for over a year after he had two knee surgeries in 2020. But the highly-anticipated comeback of the Swiss superstar, at the Qatar Open in Doha starting March 8, is all about trying to win the big titles again.
That’s according to former British pro Tim Henman, a four-time Wimbledon semifinalist and a long-time friend of the 39-year-old former world No. 1.
“His old level is so high, he’s not going to come back just to be making up the numbers,” Henman, a former world No. 4 and an analyst for European sports broadcaster Eurosport, said in a phone interview.
“He wants to be back competing to win the biggest and best tournaments. And that’s not going to get any easier as you get close to your fortieth birthday. But he’s working incredibly hard, I’m sure.”
Since turning pro in 1998, Federer has won pretty much everything there is to win in tennis, except for Olympic singles gold. The Swiss right-hander has won 103 career titles, including 20 Grand Slam singles titles. During his career, Federer has amassed close to $130 million in career prize money. Long the highest-paid tennis player, last year, he was named the world’s best-paid athlete by Forbes for the first time after his total earnings jumped to $106.3 million, thanks to a string of lucrative deals with the world’s biggest companies.
The return of a player of Federer’s caliber is hugely important for tennis, which was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic last year. All professional tennis was shut down from March, while the virus forced the first cancellation of Wimbledon since the Second World War. This year, tennis will be vying for the attention of fans with a score of other high-profile events, including the European Championships soccer and the Tokyo Olympics, both of which had originally been scheduled for 2020.
“For me, he’s the most mesmerizing player we have probably ever had in our sport,” said Henman, who won six out of 13 matches he played against the Swiss before his retirement in 2007.
“Tennis is blessed with some huge icons of the sport and of sport,” Henman said. “Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, Serena Williams, they as big a star as you can get. So we’re fortunate, but they’re not going to be around forever. So it’s important that we do enjoy them while they’re still competing.”
Federer announced his comeback in an interview with Swiss broadcaster SRF on Feb. 2, saying: “I want to celebrate great victories once again. And for that, I’m willing to go the long, hard way.”
READ: Roger Federer Announces March Comeback, Targets Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics
It’s not the first time Federer is coming back from knee surgery. He made a successful comeback in 2017 after knee surgery in 2016, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon that year. He won the last of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles at the 2018 Australian Open. Spain’s Rafael Nadal tied Federer in October by winning his 13th Roland-Garros crown in October.
Just how tough his recovery from double knee surgery has been became clear last week, when his long-time fitness trainer, Pierre Paganini, told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger Federer won’t be setting his expectations too high in his comeback.
“This knee has been causing him problems for several years,” Paganini said, adding Federer wasn’t able to start training again until October.
Federer, who last played a tournament at the 2020 Australian Open, where he lost to eventual champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the semifinals, lit up social media when he sent this tweet on Feb. 26:
Federer, who is a three-time champion in Doha, recently added the nearby Dubai Open, which starts March 15, to his schedule and was also named in the field for the Miami Open – the first of the year’s Masters 1000 events after the postponement of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells – which will be played from March 22 to April 4.
I’m a multi-media sports business writer and journalist, who has worked for the world’s biggest media companies, including the Daily Telegraph, the BBC, De Telegraaf and