Six months out injured and 35 years old, when Roger Federer returned in 2017 after knee surgery and many had their farewell pieces in their drafts and then he came back in Roger Federer style.
Federer’s 2016 season ended at Wimbledon and didn’t play a competitive event until the 2017 Australian Open. Roger’s season did begin at the Hopman Cup exhibition where he teamed up with Belinda Bencic but they went out in the round robin.
What Roger did in Melbourne that year was nothing short of exceptional. To go from no competitive competitions in 6 months to winning a major was incredible. Before the quarter finals with his ranking being lower he saw off Berdych in three and Nishikori in five sets to advance to the final eight.
Big serving Mischa Zverev who is the older brother of Alex was brushed aside before he went onto win back to back five set battles against Wawrinka and then Nadal in the final to claim a first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon 2012 a run of almost 5 years!
His time in Dubai a month later was short lived losing to Evgeny Donskoy in the second round and the March was once again all about Roger Federer.
A first Grand Slam in almost five years after six months out injured and then completing the sunshine double was unthinkable.
Roger has done it before and even to date is the last player to have done it, it is such a demanding month of tennis and the level of player he defeated across the fortnight was phenomenal.
He defeated Nadal twice and come the end of March must have been sick of the sight of him and also saw off Kyrgios, Wawrinka and Del Potro amongst others!
Indian Wells and Miami was the last we saw of Federer for some time. If anything he was the first male player in the last five years or so to introduce limited scheduling. His body wasn’t up to playing on clay so he didn’t opt for it but also he reduced his hard court schedule to tournaments that meant more to him.
Since he did it in 2017 we have other guys on the tour take a more limited schedule to protect their bodies. There is a possibility now of playing 40 weeks of the year and all tournaments want the best but it just isn’t feasible to play them all and produce consistently their best tennis.
We didn’t see Roger again until Stuttgart in early June, he fell at the first hurdle to Tommy Haas but then once again did his thing.
Champion in Halle for what was the Swiss’ 9th title on the grass in Germany and has since added a tenth. Could he win another major with such little tennis under his belt?
The answer… of course! First time winning at Wimbledon for five years to claim his 8th title there without dropping a set throughout the fortnight in London beating Marin Cilic in the final but avoiding all of the big four.
In Montreal he fell to Zverev in the final and withdrew from Cincinnati with an injury. Quarter finals was his limit at Flushing Meadows as Juan Martin Del Potro found some welcomed form for his comeback but a month or so later Federer got the better of him in Shanghai.
Having seen off Del Potro in the semi-finals he went onto beat Nadal for the fourth time this season in the final to win his third Masters 1000 of the year.
Another milestone title arrived for Roger in Basel where he was a ball boy many years ago winning his eighth with wins in the latter stages against David Goffin and Juan Martin Del Potro.
At the tour finals in London he remained undefeated in the group stage but lost a close match with David Goffin in the semi-finals as the Belgian went onto be the runner-up to Grigor Dimitrov.
This season was magnificent. When people look back and debate great seasons it’s easy to look at wins but the bigger picture must always take centre stage.
Federer hadn’t won a major in over four years, had six months out injured, came back to a limited scheduled won two Grand Slam titles, sunshine double, Shanghai and many other titles! Simply insane.
His numbers that year?
8 finals & 7 titles (his most since 2007)
14 top 10 ranked wins
image credit – AP (Aaron Favila)