The hearts of Australian tennis fans have been broken after Roger Federer confirmed he would not be competing at the Australian Open in February.
Federer has been recovering from two knee surgeries he underwent during the extended hiatus in 2020, but the Swiss champion will not be fully fit in time for the season-opening Grand Slam.
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The 39-year-old had warned it would be a ‘race against time’ for him to have recovered by the time the Australian Open came around, however it was hoped the delayed start to the tournament would give him extra time needed to prepare.
Federer’s manager Tony Godsick confirmed the news to the Associated Press.
“Roger has decided not to play the 2021 Australian Open,” Godsick told AP in a statement.
“He has made strong progress in the last couple of months with his knee and his fitness. However, after consultation with his team, he decided that the best decision for him in the long run is to return to competitive tennis after the Australian Open.
“I will start discussions this coming week for tournaments that begin in late February and then start to build a schedule for the rest of the year.”
Heartbroken fans took to social media soon after the news broke, devastated that the fan favourite would break a 21-year streak of playing at Melbourne Park.
This ends Federer's streak of 21 consecutive appearances at Melbourne Park, a run that dated to 2000 and includes 6 trophies there.
— Howard Fendrich (@HowardFendrich) December 27, 2020
So sad roger federer not playing the Australian open for all them fans who bought tickets see him after difficult year but I expected it really was far to early for him to play after not playing for a year I hope I can see him in @wimbldon 2021 and Basel next year
— col (@SEVEismymate) December 27, 2020
Rog, just get healthy and prepared for the level you know you need.
I’ll be waiting no matter what or how long.
You’re worth the wait.
— ☀️ (@VolleyMePlease) December 27, 2020
Didn’t like the sound of this & my hunch was proved correct.
Gutted that Federer won’t play in Australia, but worse things are happening in this world right now.
Don’t worry Fed fans, it’s a sensible & correct decision! No worth rushing it at this part of his career 💪🏻 https://t.co/mON71X4AvA
— GameSetMatch 🎾 (@Tennis20MAD) December 27, 2020
— Roy Ward (@rpjward) December 27, 2020
Federer is currently training in his usual off-season home in Dubai.
He hasn't played a tournament match since late January at the 2020 Australian Open, where he was clearly injured while losing in straight sets to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals.
Just weeks later, Federer announced he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
He later had a second procedure.
Aus Open wildcards for Murray, Kokkinakis
Fan favourites Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis are among the latest tennis stars awarded wildcards into the rescheduled Australian Open.
Former world No.1 Murray, a five-times Melbourne Park finalist, has slipped to 122nd in the rankings after several years battling hip injuries.
The Brit even made a teary retirement announcement in Melbourne two years ago before undergoing a second round of surgery to save his career.
"We welcome Andy back to Melbourne with open arms," Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said.
"As a five-time finalist he has been an integral part of so many amazing matches and storylines in the recent history of the Australian Open.
"His retirement was an emotional moment and seeing him come back, having undergone major surgery and build himself back up to get onto the tour again, will be a highlight of AO 2021."
Kokkinakis has endured his own injury struggles, too many to mention, and hasn't played a tour match since the 2019 US Open.
But the one-time world No.69 and Australian Davis Cup star did win a pair of UTR Pro Tennis Series events at Melbourne Park last month, a sign he is finding form at just the right time.
Kokkinakis missed the 2020 Open due to glandular fever, having finally regained full fitness in the lead-up.
"I'm super happy and thankful to have gotten a wildcard into the AO," Kokkinakis said.
"Shattered I couldn't play this year due to illness but I'm feeling great now and can't wait to get out in front of the home crowd and have some fun."
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