The news this week that Roger Federer will be joined not only by Rafael Nadal but also by Novak Djokovic at the 2022 Laver Cup in London sparked yet another round of speculation that uniting the Big 3 was a sign of Federer’s impending retirement.
A meme about Laver Cup as Federer’s “Last Dance” even trended on Twitter after the Djokovic announcement.
The Federer retirement talk has been going on since he won the French Open 13 years ago at age 27. Due in part to humans’ desire to make predictions, it will never stop. While it’s true Federer and his management company were the founders of the Laver Cup, and a return at the team event might be a “fun” way to end a career, that’s not what the Swiss Maestro has said recently.
After appearing at Wimbledon in a suit to celebrate 100 years of Centre Court, Federer told reporters he wants to play there “one more time.” Apparently, all it took to start a new round of retirement rumors was an interview Federer gave to a Dutch newspaper in which he said he’s enjoyed aspects of his life away from tennis.
For what it’s worth, in addition to Laver Cup, he’s also committed to the Swiss Indoor Championship at Basel in late October.
What is Federer’s injury?
Federer has been dealing with a torn meniscus in his right knee. He has had three surgical procedures on that knee. It’s possible there is other damage, but he has not gone into specifics. Previously in his career, he has had injuries to the left knee. Even with the knee problems, in 2021 at the age of 39, Federer made the 4th round of Roland Garros before withdrawing and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. He will be newly 41 when he attempts his comeback this fall.
In spite of all the Federer retirement talk, it’s possible the Djokovic announcement had more to do with the Serbian superstar. It appears Djokovic will miss the U.S. Open due to vaccine requirements, he has slipped to number 7 in the world, and he could use the ATP points.
Regarding Federer’s retirement, it’s also quite possible that, due to sponsor contracts and other considerations, he may never make a formal retirement announcement. The ironclad “box office” draw will have as many wild card entries as he wants into any tournament of his choice for the rest of his life.
What about Federer’s Age?
As for his age, Federer himself might not know the answer to what’s possible when he attempts a comeback. None of us do. It’s true that no player has ever played elite-level, Top 10 in the world-type tennis into their 40s. But there’s a first for everything, and if anyone is capable of it, one of the “GOATs”– a member of the Big 3– would certainly be a candidate to try it.
Federer did recently remark that he doesn’t want to keep playing if he’s not elite. It’s also possible that his statements about life away from tennis are a way of soft-pedaling fan expectations.
Here are the facts. Federer is slated to play the Laver Cup and an ATP 500 event this fall. He says he wants to play Wimbledon again. He says he enjoys his life away from competitive tennis. He has posted training videos on social media as recently as April showing him doing extensive, load-bearing footwork drills.
Perhaps it’s time to realize that the obsession over Federer’s retirement is more about you, the obsessors, than the man himself. As tennis historian Joel Drucker has pointed out, some people find it painful to watch a diminishment of skills, because it is reflective of their own mortality. Others take joy and satisfaction at seeing older athletes manage their bodies and achieve success later in their careers, because it shows what’s possible.
Either way– and irrespective of Federer’s intentions– the 2022 Laver Cup will be an exciting late-career culmination of talent and wisdom at one weekend-long event.