Although losing the world’s most popular player over the next month is a blow to the tennis world, the tournament sponsors were sympathetic to Federer’s plight.
— Dubai Tennis Champs (@DDFTennis) February 3, 2016
The timing for the 17-time major champion Federer is actually not too bad.
The next Grand Slam event—the French Open—doesn’t start until the end of May, giving the world’s third-ranked player plenty of time to recover.
Federer, with three more major championships than anyone else in the open era, loves the Grand Slam events, although Roland Garros hasn’t been as kind to him as the other three. The “Swiss Maestro” won the event once (2009) in one of the two years out of the last 11 that clay-court expert Rafael Nadal didn’t take the crown.
Federer has faced Nadal five times in the French Open—four in the finals and the other the semis—and has lost every time, including the 2008 final where Nadal ripped him 6–1, 6–3, 6–0.
But the fifth-ranked Nadal—who hasn’t advanced past the quarterfinals in a major since 2014—most likely won’t be Federer’s biggest headache at Roland Garros.
That title belongs to the No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, even though red-hot Serb has never won the event.
With the recent fall of Nadal, Djokovic has mostly had a stranglehold on the majors. He’s been to the finals of seven of the last eight Grand Slams, winning five of them.
But the 34-year-old Federer—even at this relatively advanced age—has been the only one to make a dent in the 28-year-old Djokovic’s armor of late. Of the world No. 1’s six total losses last year, three were to Federer and since Djokovic’s US Open title last September (over Federer) he’s only lost once and that was to Federer in November at the ATP World Tour Finals.