Roger Federer will almost certainly miss the Australian Open for the second year in a row, with the Swiss maestro said to be recovering slowly from a third round of knee surgery in 18 months.
But Federer’s long-time coach Ivan Ljubicic has played down fears the tennis world has seen the last of the 20-times grand slam champion, who turned 40 in August.
Federer has played just 13 matches in 2021 and not one since suffering a straight-sets quarter-final loss to Polish young gun Hubert Hurkacz in July.
The six-time Open champion’s latest four-month lay-off comes after he spent a year on the sidelines following his record-setting 15th semi-final appearance at Melbourne Park in 2020.
“Roger Federer is very unlikely to play the Australian Open. He is 40 and doesn’t recover as fast as before. But he wants to compete again and won’t retire all of a sudden,” Ljubicic told Sky Sport TV on Sunday.
“We will be able to see Roger again next year. I don’t know when exactly, but he is undergoing rehabilitation. He is recovering slowly, he is not in a hurry.”
Federer’s expected absence, while not a surprise, is a huge blow for Open officials, who had hoped the “big three” of Federer, Rafael Nadal and nine-times champion Novak Djokovic would all be back in Melbourne for at least one last time.
Nadal last week signalled his intention to be in Melbourne after his own injury battles in 2021, while Djokovic’s participation remains uncertain.
The world No.1 has yet to commit to another title defence in January after refusing to publicly reveal his vaccination status.
Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews is adamant only fully vaccinated players – and fans – will be permitted entry to Melbourne Park for the season’s first major.
Federer contested a record 21 successive Opens from 2000 to 2020 and boasts a remarkable 102-15 win-loss record at the tournament.