Roger Federer has learned not to take anything for granted.
That’s why he said what he did during the trophy presentation after his record-breaking eighth Wimbledon championship: “I hope this wasn’t my last match. And I hope I can come back next year and try to defend the title.”
Some wondered whether that meant Federer was considering retirement.
Hardly. What he meant, Federer explained Monday, was simply: “I can’t think too far ahead.”
One tournament at a time
“I didn’t think about what I was going to say. It just came out that way, to show the people that, yes, of course I hope to defend my title and, of course, I wish to be back here next year. But we just don’t know if it’s really going to actually happen,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press at the All England Club the morning after beating Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in the final. “We have to wait and see.”
He didn’t always take that approach, back when he was in his 20s and reached a record 10 Grand Slam finals in a row.
Things are different these days.
“At 25, when you win, you’re like, ‘All right, I’ll see you next year!’ because it’s normal. You’re going to be playing, for sure. The body’s going to be fine, most likely. And if not next year, well, then the year after that, you know?” Federer said as he walked through the hallways of Centre Court in grey pants and a white zippered warmup jacket. “But I can’t really think two years ahead now. Let’s be honest.”
First of all, there’s the no-way-around-it matter of his age: Federer turns 36 on Aug. 8; he is the oldest man to win Wimbledon in the Open era, which began in 1968.
A ‘click’ in the knee
And then there’s what happened about 18 months ago: A father of four, he was preparing a bath for his twin daughters when he turned and felt a “click” in his left knee. In February 2016, he had the first operation of his career, arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage.
Federer returned to the tour that March, then missed the French Open because of lingering back problems, ending his record streak of 65 consecutive Grand Slam tournament appearances. After a semifinal loss at Wimbledon a year ago, he took the rest of the season off to let his body heal, missing the U.S. Open, Rio Olympics and every other event.
“I’ve seen how quickly things can change,” Federer said. “Filling a bathtub for my girls…