18-time Major champion and multiple-time Sportsman of the Year, most would argue that Roger Federer has cemented his place as one of the greatest of all time.
And after a turbulent, injury-ridden 2016, the Swiss maestro looked set for a steady decline to retirement.
But, he got right back up on his feet and sailed to victory at the Australian Open, Indian Wells, and the Miami Open in displays that reminded naysayers of his prowess and ability to take on any opponent with class and composure.
Federer, however, will not be playing any part in this year’s French Open after revealing his decision on Monday May 15, following much back and forth that kept fans in suspense.
And although Federer cites scheduling and longevity as the reasons for him dropping out, 22-time Grand Slam champion Todd Woodbridge feels that a revived Rafael Nadal also has some part to play in the equation.
Speaking to reporters, Federer said: “I need to recognise that scheduling will be the key to my longevity.
“Thus, my team and I concluded that playing just one event on clay was not in the best interest of my tennis and physical preparation for the remainder of the season.
“I will miss the French fans, who have always been so supportive and I look forward to seeing them at Roland Garros next year.”
Federer will instead turn his attention to Wimbledon in July, where he will be vying for a record 8th win in the competition.
Nadal’s 2017 did not start as he would have liked. He lost to Federer in two finals: Australian Open and Miami Masters, and crashed out in the fourth round at Indian Wells.
Since then, however, the king of clay has claimed three titles on the run, conquering Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid in a stunning series of 15 wins without reply. He has emerged as the outright favourite to take the Roland Garros as well and a 10th title in the French capital.
It is no wonder why Woodbridge thinks that Nadal’s rebirth has played on Federer’s mind over the last few weeks as he told Tennis March: “I think it’s very clear when you sit back and look at Federer’s schedule for the year – the French was never on it.
“And if all of a sudden he says, oh I might have a go, then he goes off his plan, and that could derail the rest of the year.
“I think he’s watched Rafa and seen the amazing form Rafa’s in, and realised he’d have no chance of beating him on a surface on which Rafa has always dominated him throughout the years.
“Even if he was to meet Rafa, let’s say in the Roland Garros final with three wins against him already under his belt this year, it’s a script that’s been written before. It would be a replay of those years that Nadal dominated him on clay.”
Nadal has bested his long-term rival Federer four times in French Open finals and, in spite of losing the last four contests to the Swiss ace, leads head-to-head 23-14.
It seems as though Federer has indeed made a clever decision not to over-exert himself to take on a rampant Nadal, making Wimbledon his imminent goal. Woodbridge, however, is of the opinion that there will be no extra pressure on Federer prior to the tournament.
“I don’t see this decision putting any more pressure on him to perform well at the All England Club,” the Australian said.
“Yet there is one pressure that Roger wasn’t anticipating, and that’s Rafa’s form. Looking ahead to Wimbledon, the showdown will be the most anticipated story, with these two being the favourites and on course for a potential head-to-head match to rival this year’s Australian Open final.
“I see Roger enjoying this pressure because it’s something that was perhaps a little unexpected. I’m not sure, when the season began, he truly believed he would be in this position back at the top of the sport and battling his biggest rival.
“Federer’s goal since winning in Australia has to be winning another Wimbledon – potentially a record eighth title. That’s his motivation now. Skipping Roland Garros simply resets him for the second half of the 2017, which then quite unexpectedly will become a race for No.1 between him and Rafa.”
What next for Federer? Can Nadal make it a 10th win in Paris? Have your say in the comments section below.