Roger Federer is flying high, currently leading the ATP Race To London after winning his 28th ATP Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open presented by Itau.
But just a few years ago, the Swiss didn’t know if he would ever find such form again. Federer reached the 2016 Australian Open semi-finals, losing to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. The next day, while running a bath for his daughters, he heard a click in his knee. After returning home to Switzerland, Federer learned from an MRI that he had broken his meniscus and needed surgery.
“[I] couldn’t believe it. [I] was actually quite emotional, especially after the surgery, looking down at my foot and understanding that maybe this leg or this knee will never be the same,” Federer said. “Took it on my chin and said, ‘Okay, I’ll start working basically that next day after I came back from the hospital’.”
Federer did not immediately find his form, though. His knee still bothered him during clay-court tournaments in Monte-Carlo and Rome, and then his back began to act up. That forced him to withdraw from Roland Garros.
“I just realised there was no way I could even win a match there,” Federer said.
While the Swiss’ back got better on the grass, his knee did not. So after a semi-final loss against Milos Raonic, Federer decided that his body needed a break, and his team agreed. Federer did not compete for the rest of the season.
“It gave me all the time I needed as well on the practice court to work on my game again,” Federer said. “So when I did come back in 2017, I came back so strong.”
Federer was the 17th seed at the Australian Open, yet he managed to earn his first Grand Slam championship in nearly five years, overcoming a 1-3 deficit in the fifth set of the final against Rafael Nadal to emerge victorious. At 35 years and 174 days, Federer became the oldest major since Ken Rosewall in 1971.
“I couldn’t believe it myself because I actually thought it was going to take me at least almost half of a season to get into the swing of things,” Federer said. “But this fairytale ended very nicely by winning the Australian Open in my comeback in a final against Rafa where I was down 1-3 in the fifth. The rest we know I go on, I turn it around and I win it. So it was maybe one of the most special moments in my entire tennis career.”