On the verge of one of the most intriguing comebacks in sport, a refreshed Roger Federer feels an injury-enforced layoff may yet allow him to finish his extraordinary career with a flourish.
The Swiss champion will arrive in Perth later this week in preparation for the Hopman Cup, which will be his first competitive outing since injuring his knee in a Wimbledon semi-final in July.
The 35-year-old enjoyed time with his family in Switzerland before returning to Dubai in November to begin building fitness for his comeback and feels rejuvenated both mentally and physically.
And should the comeback falter, Federer says he will have no regrets, believing he has done all he could to give his knee time to heal properly.
“We will have to find out, depending on the first tournaments of next year, but I do believe it could be very beneficial for the future of my tennis career to have had this six-month layoff,” he said.
“I feel rejuvenated, refreshed. I think maybe mentally I needed this rest more than I thought I would. Maybe also my body needed the rest more than I thought it would.
“I hope it is going to pay off. At least one thing I know now is that … if the knee isn’t going to be good or whatever happens, happens, I have no regrets. I feel like I did everything this year to get my body back in shape and now only time can tell.”
Federer has not won a grand slam title since Wimbledon in 2012, though he has played in three finals and reached the semi-finals five times in 15 subsequent attempts. He concedes an elusive 18th grand slam title may be beyond him but feels that if he continues to play deep into the second week of majors, he will break through.
“I guess you hope it is around the corner and if it is not, it is not,” he said. “The mindset is always very positive that it can happen, or that it should happen, and I am doing everything I possibly can to achieve that.
“I have always been very positive with my team about my chances of achieving another grand slam and winning those big matches when it matters and putting in everything you can physically to be in tip-top shape when that grand slam final or semi comes around.
“For me personally, I still believe in it. Time will tell whether it is going to be possible or not.” He believes Andy Murray’s ascent to the world’s top ranking, coinciding with a decline in the dominance of Novak Djokovic, has boosted the confidence of their key rivals heading into the Australian Open.
The Scot has reached five finals without success, while Djokovic arrives as the King of Melbourne Park having won five of the past six Australian Opens.
“It is also up to us to reinvent ourselves, to come up with a plan of how to beat Novak, and Andy has shown that a little bit and that gives a bigger belief for more of the players that there is a bigger chance for us to win slams,” Federer said.
Federer broadcast a searching practice session in Dubai yesterday via social media and looked to be in peak fitness ahead of his return to competitive tennis under the tutelage of coach Ivan Ljubicic.
Wearing a fluorescent pink headband and shorts while practising with the 15th-ranked Frenchman Lucas Pouille, the Swiss champion appeared to be loving his time back on court.
The enjoyment even extended to the push-ups he was forced to do late in the broadcast when on the wrong end of an exchange of volleys. He will rest for the next three days before having another searching session in Dubai a couple of days after Christmas before flying to Perth on the 28th to prepare for the Hopman Cup.