“See you on the grass!” he wrote on Twitter, as Roger Federer announced on Thursday that he has undergone right-knee surgery which will force him to withdraw from Dubai, Indian Wells, Bogota, Miami and the French Open.
Last year, Federer enjoyed a rich vein of form post-Melbourne, winning his 100th career singles title in Dubai, reaching the final of Indian Wells and posting his fourth Miami Open title at the end of March.
He went on to play Madrid, his first clay-court tournament in three years, and committed to a full clay-court season for the first time since 2015. With the Swiss maestro out until at least June, we thought we would make up for it by picking out five of the best Federer matches of 2019 for you to enjoy.
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5. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Halle, Round 2)
Tsonga has struggled with injury in recent years, but this was him back to his chest-pumping, blockbuster best. The Frenchman brought the firepower and the king of Halle by no means had it all his own way. But Federer matched his opponent in this physical battle you could not take your eyes off.
4. Novak Djokovic (London, Round Robin)
Federer’s finest displays this year all came when he was making a lot of first serves and at the O2 he put on a serving clinic against the best returner of all time. Djokovic had won their last four meetings – three of those on hard. But Federer was absolutely dialed in as he probed the Djokovic rear guard with patient, masterfully constructed points. This was Federer the strategist at his very best.
3. Borna Coric (Rome, Round 3)
The Swiss’ long-awaited return to the clay might have been a throwback, but this was not vintage Federer. Coric bullied his lethargic opponent in the opening exchanges. But Federer fought back, and though we might remember 2019 for the match points he lost at Wimbledon, here he fended off multiple match points for the second tournament in a row with some sensational, lung-busting rallies. One of the best tiebreaks of 2019 in this one.
2. Dominic Thiem (Madrid, Quarter-Finals)
Saying that, Federer’s previous outing in Madrid also had its fair share of heartbreak. Federer and Thiem provided one of the most fascinating rivalries last year, and this was the pick of the bunch. The Austrian was the last man to beat Federer at the start of March – but, as ever, the Swiss had learned from his mistakes. He played some scintillating attacking tennis in the first two sets and it took a thrilling second set tiebreak for Thiem to turn things around.
1. Alexander Zverev (Shanghai, Quarter-Finals)
Another three-set thriller and more saved match points. Zverev arrived in Shanghai without having made a Masters semi-final all year and yet the pressure did not weigh heavily as he roared out of the blocks, swinging freely and playing some devastatingly aggressive tennis. Federer looked down and out. But then he delivered some of his most breath-taking tennis of the season. Ice still runs through his veins.