Roger Federer’s former coach Paul Annacone has questioned how long the Swiss star can put off retirement as recovers from knee surgery. Last month, Federer out of the blue announced he had undergone an operation on his right knee.
In his statement, the 20-time Grand Slam champion made clear he was aiming to return to action by June for the grass-court season.
But this week, the tennis world has been rocked by the impact of the global coronavirus outbreak.
The men’s professional tennis tour opted to suspend competition until April but there could be further delays should the situation worsen.
Former player Mardy Fish jokingly nicknamed Federer ‘Fedoracle’ for having surgery before the disruption.
When Federer does return, he will have dropped down the rankings and faces increasing pressure from a rising group of impressive young players.
At 38, the Swiss star is in the final stages of his remarkable career but has maintained he is ready to continue playing as long as his family are happy.
Speaking on Tennis Channel in a discussion about the coronavirus, Annacone, who worked with Federer from the end of 2010 to end of 2013, questioned how much longer he can avoid retirement.
“For Roger, it is about getting healthy,” he said.
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“Like a lot of us trying to stay healthy for a different reason, he needs to get healthy from that knee procedure and try to get ready for the grass-court season, hopefully, that will be intact.
“At 38-years of age he is so good at knowing what his body needs, he will go about the steps in the right way.
“You just wonder at 38-years of age, how long is he going to stymie Father Time.”
When Federer does come back, his record of weeks at world No 1 will be under threat from Novak Djokovic.
On Monday, the Serbian will move to 282 weeks at the top of men’s tennis, four behind second-placed Pete Sampras and 28 away from Federer’s all-time leading 310.
And after winning in Dubai in February, Djokovic made clear the No 1 record was on his list of goals for 2020.
He said: “I’ve mentioned it: the highest goal for this season is to hold on to the No. 1 spot, the Olympics and the grand slams.
“I think every next season that I play – hopefully I still want to play and still like to compete – grand slams will be right up there.”
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