LONDON, Dec 28, (AP): Roger Federer withdrew from the Australian Open while he continues preparing to return to action after two operations on his right knee and a tour absence that will have lasted longer than a year, his agent told The Associated Press. Tony Godsick – Federer’s long-time representative and CEO of their management company, TEAM8 – said Sunday he is working on putting together a 2021 tennis calendar for the 20-time Grand Slam champion, who plans to get back to competition soon after the year’s first major tennis tournament.
This ends Federer’s streak of 21 consecutive appearances at Melbourne Park, a run that began with his 2000 debut there and includes six championships. “Roger has decided not to play the 2021 Australian Open. He has made strong progress in the last couple of months with his knee and his fitness. However, after consultation with his team, he decided that the best decision for him in the long run is to return to competitive tennis after the Australian Open,” Godsick said in a statement sent to the AP.
The start of the Australian Open’s main draw was delayed by three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic and is now scheduled to begin on Feb. 8. In other news related to the tournament, Tennis Australia announced that five-time runner-up Andy Murray was given a wild-card entry. Murray, a three-time major champion and former No. 1, is 122nd in the rankings after going through two hip operations and considering retirement.
The 39-year-old Federer, who has spent more weeks atop the ATP rankings than anyone else but is No. 5 after his hiatus, is currently training in his usual offseason home of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The choice to delay his comeback came with input from coaches Severin Luthi and Ivan Ljubicic and fitness coach Pierre Paganini.
Federer hasn’t played a tournament match since late January at the 2020 Australian Open, where he was clearly injured while losing in straight sets to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. Soon after, Federer participated in an exhibition charity event with Rafael Nadal in front of a record tennis crowd of more than 50,000 people at a soccer stadium in Cape Town, South Africa.