Federer is Back, Nadal and Djokovic Stand in the Way of Another Slam

AP/Christophe Ena, file

Federer is Back, Nadal and Djokovic Stand in the Way of Another Slam

It’s been more than a year since Roger Federer graced the courts of the 2020 Australian Open. He made it all the way to the semifinals before succumbing to Novak Djokovic in straight sets. Since then, he’s had one whole year to recover from knee surgery, and lucky for him, the tennis world feels unchanged. In a way Roger was lucky to be absent during most of the pandemic. He has a protected ranking and will now calmy be able to rejoin the tour at full fitness.

The last time Roger Federer decided to take an extended layoff for surgery and recovery was 2016, when he missed six months of the season before storming back and claiming an additional three Grand Slam titles in one of the most amazing career rejuvenations in history. He was a tad younger then. The question is: was he really any different than now?

Well, yes, he came back with an improved backhand and incredible hunger. Will the 2021 version come back with another improved stroke and more hunger? It’s entirely possible. That being said, he’s still going to have to contend with Djokovic and Nadal, both of which are continuing to dominate both the Australian and the French Open.

So, if Federer wants another shot at a Grand Slam to keep those two champions at bay, he’ll need to do it at either Wimbledon or the US Open. Wimbledon seems like the best opportunity for him. Let’s not forget he had two match points against Djokovic at the 2019 Wimbledon.

Federer still has the game to dominate the tournament. However, will he have the game to dominate somebody like Djokovic in the final? That remains to be seen. One gets the sense that Djokovic is going to have an extraordinary year. He obliterated Daniil Medvedev, the second-best hard-court player in the world, at the Australian Open final to win his 18th Grand Slam. Nobody would be surprised if he adds a couple of more titles this year to tie both Nadal and Federer with 20 overall Grand Slam titles.

Federer’s record has never been under such pressure, and that may be motivation for him this year. Unfortunately for him, it will also be motivation for both Nadal and Djokovic.

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