At age 34 and with a list of honors that already puts him above all others in the tennis history books, Roger Federer could be forgiven for not exactly relishing getting onto the practice court. Yet his love for the sport, which has enabled him to still compete at the top of the game at an age when most players have already hung up their racket, again shone through this week.
“Rarely felt so happy to be back on the practice court,” Federer tweeted out to his more than 4.5 million followers.
He had particular reason for delight. The picture accompanying his comment showed him hitting his famed one-handed backhand with his full weight placed on a right knee that just three weeks earlier had undergone surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Rarely felt so happy being back on a practice court _ pic.twitter.com/2BJTqLqhTW
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) February 23, 2016
Federer suffered the injury just a day after his defeat to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals of the Australian Open. That loss made it three successive Grand Slams in which Federer’s hopes of adding to his record 17 Grand Slam titles has been ended by the Serbian world No. 1.
Yet he commented afterward that he was taking the positives from still consistently going deep in tennis’ biggest events, as well as having begun 2016 in strong form. Certainly, there continues to be no indication that he is even considering calling time on his legendary career.
“It doesn't scare me when I go into a big match against any player who's in their prime right now,” he said in Melbourne last month. “But of course you need to prove yourself. You need to have all that going. It's disappointing, but at the same time I'm going deep in slams right now. I'm having great runs. I thought I had a tough draw here, so I'm actually pleased where my level's at at the beginning of the season.
“Definitely walk away from a place like this and say, I want to come back next year. I want to relive it again. No problem to hit the practice courts. Can't wait for the next tournament.”
The speed of which he has returned to fitness after surgery at an age when recovery tends to be slower will further defy the doubters. It now just remains to be seen when Federer will be back in competitive action.
Already he has missed scheduled appearances at ATP events in Rotterdam and Dubai this month. The next tournament on his schedule is the first ATP Masters 1000 events of the year, in Indian Wells, beginning on March 7. It is one that Federer will not want to miss, given that it is currently his only scheduled tournament before the French Open at the end of May.
Still, if it were deemed that Indian Wells comes too soon in Federer’s recovery, he may well consider putting a late entry into the second Masters 1000 hard court event of the spring, which will get underway in Miami on March 23.