If you had asked me this question after the Australian Open earlier this year, I would have given you an answer to the above question with 100% certain certainty – NO. Hampered by a groin injury, Federer was lucky to even reach the semi-finals of the event (where he ultimately got rolled by Djokovic). In two of his previous rounds, he salvaged victory from the jaws of defeat against players he would look to dispatch easily if he was in good form. The real concern was the fallout, where Roger announced he would be needing knee surgery and would not play until the grass-court season. In a sport where players usually get better as the season goes on, Federer’s absence was cause for concern and at almost 39 years old, I thought this was the end for Federer’s chance at a 21st Grand Slam. But, we all know what happened after that…
The world has since been plunged into chaos and the ATP & WTA seasons suspended due to the onset of COVID-19. Roland Garros was moved to late 2020, Wimbledon has now been cancelled, and the season restart date keeps getting pushed back more and more. Whether we actually see any action on court in 2020 is not a certainty, as world sporting bodies seek to scramble together contingency plans moving forward. So whilst the horrific fallout from COVID-19 has yet to truly come to fruition, I want to pose a question – does the forced season break help Roger Federer’s bid for another grand slam? I think it does – here’s why.
Roger Federer is the people’s champion, the GOAT, the man everyone loves to love. Apart from his mental strength, unbelievable shot making, supreme longevity and passion for the sport – Federer has something all great sportsmen need… luck. In a sport where mm’s can mean the difference between a loss and a win, Roger seems to usually end up on the winning side of things. So now with the current hiatus, Roger benefits from…
- A stress free healing period (where his rivals will not improve their games nor win any grand slams)
- An ATP point freeze, where Roger will now lose no points and return to the sport still no. 4 in the world
- An extended break where his aging body can rest and recover and come back fresh.
The rest & recovery part is of a particular advantage over some of his younger rivals, who I’m sure will be less likely to be disciplined at home with training etc during this extended hiatus. Remember, Federer turned pro in 1998. That’s going to be 22 years on court upon his return. Last time Federer took time away a few years ago (6 months off), he came back and won 3 more grand slams after a fruitless year in 2016. After his break, Roger said…
“To have had this six-month layoff, rejuvenated, refreshed… maybe mentally I needed this rest more than I thought I would. Maybe my body needed a rest more than I thought it would. I tried to look at the big picture, I hope it’s going to pay off.”
Probably the main advantage Federer has due to the break is the ATP point freeze, which means not having to contend with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Dominic Thiem before the semi-finals of a grand slam because of his no. 4 ranking.
Ultimately, whether tennis returns in late 2020 or starts afresh in 2021, Roger Federer is in a much better position than if there was not a forced break. There is a fundamental difference between the good tennis players and the great – and it’s 1 or 2 points a match. You have to win the big moments and take advantage of your luck. In a sport where clipping a mm of the line, catching the tape, or getting a lucky bounce is fundamental, Federer seems to do it better than any. And whilst nobody hoped or wished for this situation, Federer is well poised to capitilise on the situation and add to his legendary status at the top of tennis.
So, will Roger Federer win another grand slam? Maybe.