Roger Federer's coach Severin Lüthi says: "Retirement was never an issue"
Roger Federer has not played competitive tennis for seven months because of two knee surgeries. At the beginning of October he will return to the court to prepare for his comeback. His coach Severin Lüthi says: "We will have to watch closely how his body reacts to the stress of the competition."
The original plan was for Roger Federer to return to the court in mid-August. However, to this day you have not resumed competition training. Is there a problem with the operated knee?
No not at all. Rehabilitation goes normal. As with everyone, there are good days and bad days after a surgery. Roger started physiotherapy the day after the operation. And for some time now he has been working again with his fitness trainer Pierre Paganini. At the moment the focus is on achieving full physical fitness again. Don’t forget: He last competed on the court at the beginning of February. The break was significantly longer than in 2016 when he broke off the season after Wimbledon. It is important that Pierre Paganini and Daniel Troxler (the physiotherapist) coordinate their work well. I myself have only had sporadic contact with Roger in the past few weeks.
When is it planned that he will return to the court?
Of course he hit a few balls from time to time - just to feel the ball and the raquet. But this wasn’t really training. Our plan is to be back on the court regularly from the beginning of October. Because one thing is clear: he needs training hours on the court before his comeback. The important phase follows in October, November and December. We still have enough time.
Corona is currently limiting us all. Where will these trainings take place?
We start in Switzerland and then look further. Corona forces us all to remain flexible.
In the social networks were many speculations. You could read that Federer was preparing his quiet retreat. Have there been such thoughts?
I haven't heard anything about that yet. Retirement was never a serious issue. But as I said: Roger wants to take his time. We agreed from the start not to let ourselves be stressed. We have set up a provisional schedule. But it was also clear: We will not stubbornly hold on to this. If Roger needs a few more weeks to set up, he'll take it. Physical fitness is the basis for playing tennis successfully. That is currently the focus.
And yet you will have pondered how Federer is preparing his comeback. Can you comment on that?
As I said: Much is still open and will also depend on the course of the pandemic. Whether he will play a tournament, the ATP Cup or a few exhibition matches before the Australian Open has not yet been determined and is also not decisive. It would also be unwise to say now: Roger is playing here or there. That only limits him in his planning.
Only four years have passed since his last break. But Federer turned 39 on August 8th. Does that change the way you prepare for the comeback?
It's not so much the age as the length of the break. He will not have played competitively for almost a year in early January. That's a long time even for an exceptional athlete like him. Inactivity after an operation also causes muscles to break down. So when he resumed training he had to start below zero, so to speak. But Roger's advantage is that Pierre and Dani know him extremely well. They work with him for years. They both know exactly what Roger needs and how much he can strain his body. Daniel Troxler in particular was an important contact person for him in the first few weeks after the operation.
In 2017, on his last comeback, Federer won the Australian Open straight away. That now shapes the expectations. How far is that a burden for him?
Roger has the gift of not placing undue weight on what is said or written. If he reads something wrong once, then he can leave it as it is. It may sound like an empty phrase, but he really focuses on itself. Let's be honest: what he did in Melbourne in 2017 was nearly a miracle. To win one of the biggest tournaments with practically no competition practice, that was extraordinary. Federer is an exceptional talent. But his competitors are all very good tennis players. The younger ones in particular are constantly developing. You can see that at the US Open right now.
Will he have to reduce his ambitions?
Roger likes to be the favorite. For years he went to a tournament with the conviction: If you want to beat me, you have to show something extraordinary. But it can also have advantages to compete with lower expectations and, above all, without pressure.
Before the knee injury and Corona came, Federer had an extremely ambitious program for 2020. In addition to all four major tournaments, he also wanted to play at the Olympics. Will he stick to this program for 2021?
I think Roger is at a point in his career today where he can take the right to remain flexible and make short-term decisions. We will have to watch closely how his body reacts to the stress of competition. Besides, nobody can say at the moment how the pandemic will develop. Yes, like Wimbledon, the Olympics are a fixture for him in the coming season. But at the same time he will not allow himself to be put under pressure by a single appointment.
How close has he been to the tennis scene in the past few weeks? For example, did he follow the US Open?
We don't have daily contact. But every now and then he text me, pointing out something that shows me that he is following what is happening. But Roger was never a player who followed the games to see how his opponents are playing and what progress they have made. He still watches tennis today because he loves the sport. It was nice for him and his family to spend some time in Switzerland again.