Band Simon Briggs
Roger Federer has admitted that realizing he would never win another Wimbledon title brought him to tears last summer.
The 41-year-old, who announced last week that he would retire after the ongoing Laver Cup, revealed that he collapsed after losing to Felix Auger Aliassime in the lead up to his final Wimbledon in 2021.
He fed on the majesty of his serve and was still able to come forward and win short points. But once his opponent had the upper hand in a rally, he couldn’t scramble the balls back for long.
“When I lost to Felix in Halle [in June 2021]I cried after the game [as] I knew I wasn’t going to win Wimbledon,” Federer explained. “You get to a point where you create too many moments to defend against certain players of the good level. [But] there is nothing left to defend. So I had to play extra offensively and just try to work my way through the games in this way.”
It may seem strange to imagine Federer – the male record holder for Wimbledon titles – having to “weasel” his way through matches, especially on grass. But looking back at that 2021 Wimbledon Championship, he needed a little help in his first round encounter with the clumsy Adrian Mannarino, who went ahead alone when Mannarino fell and sprained his knee as he led by two sets to one.
After more encouraging wins over Richard Gasquet, Cameron Norrie and Lorenzo Sonego, Federer’s singles career ended in the quarterfinals, where Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz stopped him in straight sets.
It’s a testament to the sport’s ruthlessness that Federer went out with a 6-0 bagel set, just as Donald Bradman registered a duck in his final innings and Usain Bolt sustained a hamstring in the 4x100m relay.
“The end of that game was one of the worst moments of my career because I felt really terrible,” said Federer. “It was over, the knee was gone and when I knew I had to confront the media in a short time right after, it was very difficult. But for me it is what it is. You know you can’t turn back time and say : ‘Oh, we should have changed this.’
“And that’s why I’m so happy that I’m on my left knee [which had undergone a similar operation four years earlier] I was able to come back and win three more slams, including that 2017 comeback win in Australia.
“Because I had a good experience with my left, I thought, ‘Okay, my right is a very similar operation. We’ll do that and maybe I’ll get another chance.’ Look, it wasn’t supposed to be, and then of course the last three years have been pretty tough. You’re dealing with it. When I go through rehab, the daily progress is small, but I want to be healthy for life. So it was well worth it.”
Federer admitted he regrets his decision to undergo surgery on his right knee in February 2020. As he told reporters at the O2 Arena this week, he never regained the smooth movement of yesteryear despite the best part of 18 months of rehab.
“When I came back [from the 2020 Australian Open] I was so unhappy with my knee and I had been unhappy for a number of years,” Federer explained. “So maybe I should have that surgery, maybe I shouldn’t have done it afterwards. I had played and that it would have exploded at some point.
“At that point, I was 100 percent convinced that this was the right thing to do. I did the surgery, it was successful, and six weeks later I have to do another one because something is wrong again. I mean, you just can’t predict things like this. There is always a risk when you open something. That’s why I always said, ‘It’s the beginning of the end once you’ve had surgery.’”