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The 17-time major champion, out of action since Wimbledon, says he knew by the end of that event that his only choice was to shut down his tennis to try to build his fitness back to 100 percent.
“The difficult phase was between Rome and Wimbledon,” he said. “Because I realized: Something is wrong with my knee, I am not doing well, I do not feel any progress, I am not well prepared for Wimbledon.”
Federer would go on to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon, and because it was such a surprise, he called it one of his most rewarding Wimbledon experiences.
As far as the looming possibility of retirement goes, it’s not really on Federer’s mind. “My last hurrah could take years, depending on the perspective,” Federer said when asked if he was thinking about the end. “Yes: I hope there is again a real hurrah. Otherwise I would not have taken such a long break. I would have come back half-fit after a few months and would have played something. But when I knew I would have to miss the Olympics and the US Open, I said: ‘Come on, now we do it right.’ That will be good for my body… maybe even after my career. Such a long break once in 20 years is okay.”
Federer said he has made no plans beyond Indian Wells for next year, and he adds that he isn’t really sure what to expect.
“First I have to see how it goes,” he said. “But I think Hopman Cup, Australian Open, Dubai and Indian Wells are fixed. For other tournaments I have not yet enrolled.”
Federer said he plans to head to Dubai and continue with his training. He has played tennis sparingly in his time off but he will begin to play more by December.
“I go [to Dubai] in November,” he said. “Now I was always in Switzerland, first in the mountains, now in Wollerau. In between, I was in New York.” He adds: “In the past two months, perhaps ten or twelve times [I have played tennis], and maybe three times more than an hour… I did not want to burden my knee after I had made a lot of specific strength training for the thigh and knee.”
Federer says that all has gone as expected, but he adds that he has yet to put the knee to the full test, so there are still unknowns.
“Now I feel strong but I did not go to the limit,” he said. “Because I have still about 80 days until the Australian Open, which is an enormous amount. I just hope that everything goes well. After this injury, I do not want to be too euphoric.”