It turns out Rio de Janeiro will not be a terminal destination for Roger Federer, where the 34-year-old all-time men’s Grand Slam singles champ was destined to go out in a blaze of glory — or a tailspin.
Rio has become just another station that Federer bypasses without pause as he continues his unique journey in tennis, the terminus still unknown. That much was clear in the undertone of the announcement Federer posted the other day, declaring that he was skipping the Olympic Games and pulling the plug on the rest of the 2016 year.
Instead, he will focus on “extensive rehabilitation” of his surgically repaired left knee.
“It’s pretty incredible to see the progress I’ve been able to make in a short period of time,” Federer told the ATP in late March, about seven weeks after his surgery. In his latest statement, a more sober Federer philosophically wrote, “The silver lining is that this experience has made me realize how lucky I have been throughout my career with very few injuries.”
The one thing we’ve learned over the years is that there’s no telling about longevity, about who will or won’t have it. Despite this setback, Federer appears to be built for the long haul. He’s as much in love with the game as it is in love with him. It looks as if he’s just been denied a final shot at glory. He’s found a greater project than two weeks in Rio.
“I am as motivated as ever and plan to put all my energy towards coming back strong, healthy and in shape to play attacking tennis in 2017,” Federer wrote.
Curious that Federer chooses to insert the adjective “attacking.” It’s as if he’s telling us: Don’t expect to see some 35-year-old has-been hobbling around out there next year, punching up moon balls, either.
Get the signs and posters ready: Tokyo, 2020.