Roger Federer says he hopes to return to action by the end of the summer, with his recovery from knee surgery all but guaranteed to rule the 20-time grand slam winner out of Wimbledon.
The 40-year-old underwent surgery on his right knee for the third time last August, and has missed five of the last seven grand slams.
Federer was spotted at a skiing event in his native Switzerland, where fans came out in force to pose for selfies with the 20-time major winner.
The 40-year-old made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year, but coach Severin Luthi recently said that he "can't imagine" the eight-time Wimbledon winner featuring in London this year.
Federer has now provided an update on his likely return to action in news that has fans excited, following that initial disappointment.
Speaking to Swiss broadcaster SRF about his recovery from a third knee surgery, Federer said he was targeting a return at end of the European summer or start of autumn.
The news means he could make a comeback for the US Open, which starts in New York on August 29.
Federer insisted that he feels "positive" about his return to the court whatever date that might be.
"It will certainly be a while," Federer said. "The end of the summer, early autumn, [that's] where I'm aiming for a comeback.
"It's [the knee] fine. Much better. Obviously, I was on crutches for two months, so you have to start from the bottom.
"It [the surgery] was certainly the right thing to do, the knee wasn't right after Wimbledon, so it couldn't go on.
"Currently I'm in three parts. First, the whole rehab, getting back on your feet at the beginning. Then afterwards, learning to walk and building up the whole thing.
"It's only now where I'm at the phase where I can start thinking about my comeback. I had a very good MRI a few weeks ago, which makes me feel very positive."
Excited fans immediately took to social media to share their joy about the prospect of the Swiss maestro making his comeback to tennis.
Roger Federer interviewed by Swiss television today in Lenzerheide during the ski race, told that he is planning his comeback on the tour for end of summer / beginning of autumn. Let's hope so 🙂🙏
— Christoph Miescher (@ch_miescher) March 5, 2022
— Bridget - #standwithukraine 🇺🇦 (@Pinklady13X) March 5, 2022
— Bavarian RF (@HagerAlmeria) March 5, 2022
Can’t wait to see Roger play again.
— Jacqueline (@cabbagerose16) March 5, 2022
I miss him on the court so much. But pix like this are second best!
— Kay Brooks (@kaybrooks41) March 5, 2022
I’m a big Rafa fan but I can honestly say I’ve really missed Roger. So happy he’s planning on coming back!!
— VamosHeavenlyCreature (@rafannie) March 5, 2022
@rogerfederer Legend 🙏
Get well soon
We are waiting for youuuu ❤️❤️
We just want to see you on the court 🙏 stay healthy and good luck
— Safa Souguir 🇹🇳 (@SafaSouguir) March 5, 2022
Roger Roger Roger Roger Roger Roger Roger Roger 🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌
— Jordan (@Jordan43572657) March 5, 2022
Federer's tally of 20 career Grand Slam titles was surpassed by Rafael Nadal in January's Australian Open, and the duo are set, fitness permitting, to team up to represent Europe in the Laver Cup, which takes place in September.
The timeline for Federer's recovery also means that he will miss the second slam of 2022, May's French Open at Rolland Garros.
Federer's coach said earlier in the week that although he's returned to the court to hit balls with wife Mirka, he still has a lot of work to do before he's fully fit for a professional return.
"He's still in the rehabilitation phase. Not only do the knee and leg muscles have to be built up, the whole body has to be strengthened. It's a full conditioning program," Luthi added.
Federer touts Laver Cup return with Rafa Nadal
While Federer hasn't played since Wimbledon last July, the 40-year-old appears keen to play at least one more Laver Cup tournament.
And Nadal, fresh off winning his 21st grand slam title, hinted at teaming up with Federer in doubles for the tournament.
Tennis fans remember the iconic scenes when 'Fedal' teamed up to play doubles together at the first edition of the Laver Cup.
While the next edition of the tournament is still later this year, to be held in London from September 23-25, Federer has signalled the tennis tournament is part of his plans.
"I'm really looking forward to getting back into competition later this year and Laver Cup is very much part of my plan," Federer said.
"It's no secret that I love the event and I'm super excited to be returning to The O2 and to London, one of the greatest cities in the world."
Nadal said the chance of taking the court with his friend maybe one last time during their professional careers would be a special experience.
"Roger has been a huge part of my career, a big rival and also a true friend," Nadal said.
"To be part of Team Europe together is great and if we're able to possibly share the court one more time as a doubles pairing than this would be a truly special experience for us both at this stage in our careers."
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