'Rejuvenated' Federer Ready For Return
Swiss will return to tour-level competition next month
As he prepares for the 2017 season, Roger Federer said on Friday that he's feeling rejuvenated and is eager to come back to tour-level competition after missing half of the 2016 season.
Federer, speaking with reporters on a conference call, said he's played “very well” in practice matches with fellow ATP World Tour pros Lucas Pouille of France, Borna Coric of Croatia and Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Federer also said he doesn't regret sitting out six months of the season. The Swiss legend last played in July at the Wimbledon semi-finals (l. to Raonic).
“I do believe it could be very beneficial for the future of my tennis career that I've had this six-month layoff,” Federer said. “I feel rejuvenated, refreshed. Maybe mentally I needed this rest more than I thought I would. Maybe also my body needed a rest more than I thought I would.”
The 88-time tour-level titlist had never taken off so much as a few weeks in a season before this year. But 2016 was far from a regular campaign for the 35-year-old father of four.
In February, for the first time in Federer's career, he had to undergo surgery. A day after losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semi-finals, Federer tore a meniscus in his left knee while preparing a bath for his twin girls. The right-hander returned to competition two months later, in Monte-Carlo, and, the following month, played the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome.
But Federer then missed another month of the season before making his return on the grass in Stuttgart. He'd play only two more tournaments, including Wimbledon, before later announcing he wouldn't play again until 2017.
“It was really about taking a tough decision to say, 'I give myself time, I deserve to give myself time.' I take six months off in a 20-year career, it's OK. If you look at six months off in a 12-month season it sounds like there's no chance I'm ever going to take six months off,” Federer said. “But I tried to look at the big picture. At least one thing I know now, let's say the knee won't be good, I have no regrets. I feel I did everything this year to get my body back in shape and now only time can tell.”
Resting for so long assured Federer that he wouldn't need a second surgery on his left knee. “That for me was No. 1 and crucial. I just needed it to rest really,” he said.
After Wimbledon, he tried to play again in August but decided against seriously testing his knee. “I played again, very quick. There was a bit of a reaction in the knee and that's when you realise ... we knew it was too early,” he said.
Last month, Federer took a couple weeks off before resuming training for 2017. “The last six weeks for me have been crucial and obviously the last two weeks in November when I came back from vacation were really important for me to see how much load I could put on the leg,” Federer said. “Very quickly we realised at the end of November, early December, I was not at 100 per cent yet, let's be honest, because you always need more time, more reassurance. But things went very well. I didn't have any setbacks. In the end it all worked out according to plan.”
The time off had upsides as well. “It was great to spend more quality time with the kids, or me with more energy rather than having to worry, 'Careful, I have a match tomorrow' or 'I need to go to bed' or in the morning 'Don't wake me up' kind of thing because daddy needs to sleep a little bit,” Federer said.
Federer, who has won 24 ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles and 17 Grand Slam crowns, said he thinks his 18th Grand Slam title could come next season. He will make his return to tour-level competition at the Australian Open, which starts 16 January.
“I think I've been awfully close the last few years but that doesn't count because it wasn't winning,” Federer said. “Time will tell if it's going to be possible or not.”
Federer spoke to reporters on a conference call organised by the Hopman Cup.