'Very near': Roger Federer sparks retirement fears with surgery announcement

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Roger Federer’s shock surgery announcement has sparked fears from fans that he’s headed for imminent retirement.

Federer on Thursday announced he will miss this year's French Open after undergoing knee surgery.

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The 20-time grand slam champion went under the knife in Switzerland on Tuesday and will not return to action until the grass-court season at the earliest.

Federer, 38, wrote on Twitter: “My right knee has been bothering me for a little while.

“I hoped it would go away, but after an examination, and discussion with my team, I decided to have arthroscopic surgery in Switzerland yesterday.”

Roger Federer will miss the French Open. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

As Kevin Mitchell of the Guardian pointed out, the announcement stoked the worst fears of Federer’s legion of fans.

“His worldwide audience went into paroxysms of grief, registering more than 10,000 “likes” in half an hour, although there was not much to like,” Mitchell wrote.

“Their concern – and that of the entire industry – is that, at 38, Federer is hurrying towards the last chapter of his remarkable story.

“While he has had injuries in the past – although few until he passed 35, certainly not as many as his most of his contemporaries – the accumulation of trouble in key areas of his body does not encourage confidence in his medium- to long-term future.”

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Federer, who won his solitary Roland Garros title in 2009, withdrew from the tournament in 2016 through injury and then opted to miss the clay-court season in both 2017 and 2018.

He returned last year, losing to 12-time winner Rafael Nadal in straight-sets in the semi-finals, and intended to compete again this year.

However, the world No.3 added: "After the procedure, the doctors confirmed that it was the right thing to have done and are very confident of a full recovery.

"As a result, I will unfortunately have to miss Dubai, Indian Wells, Bogota, Miami and the French Open.

"I am grateful for everyone's support. I can't wait to be back playing again soon, see you on the grass."

Roger Federer speaks to the media at the Australian Open. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

Federer has been cutting down his tournament appearances in recent years in a bid to prolong his career.

He arrived at last month's Australian Open having not played a competitive match since the ATP Finals in London in November but still reached the last four, where he was beaten by eventual champion Novak Djokovic.

The Swiss great will hope to have fully recovered in time for Wimbledon in June, where he will bid to add to his record eight titles. He also plans to play at the Olympics in Tokyo a few weeks later.

with AAP