Roger Federer has been the most injury-resistant player on tour for the last 13 years. Lost opportunities due to walkovers and/or withdrawals have been incredibly rare for the Swiss Maestro. That endurability is a major reason that he holds the records for most Grand Slam singles titles and the most weeks ranked No. 1 in the world.
But Federer is now in his mid-30s, and that’s well past a tennis player’s prime. Following his recent knee surgery and return to the practice courts, Federer announced earlier this week that he would miss Indian Wells 2016. He will also miss Miami as his official schedule lists Monte Carlo, which starts on April 9th, as the next event that he will contest. Those two tournaments, Miami and Indian Wells, are a part of the Masters 1000 series, and that has to have some fans wondering if there could be some ranking implications due to Federer’s missed time.
As of Monday, Federer will remain the No. 3 player in the world, despite the fact that the 29th is the drop date for his 500 ranking points from his ATP Dubai 2015 title. While missed time due to injury is never a good thing for any player, in Federer’s case he does not have many ranking points to defend in the couple of months ahead of the French Open. That means that the ranking implications for the injury are not such that he should be tumbling downward soon.
In fact, Federer missed Miami last year, so that leaves him nothing to defend this season. However, at Indian Wells 2015 he made the final and that means that 600 ranking points will go undefended this season. With plans to play at Monte Carlo, Federer will have just 90 points to defend there.
Even with Stan Wawrinka claiming the Dubai title this weekend, the gap between third and fourth will still be about 2000 ranking points. That gap promises to close while Federer is sidelined, but if he returns as scheduled – and plays well – then a significant ranking slide does not appear to be imminent.
Of course, playing well post-injury isn’t something that a player can just decide to do. With so few lost weeks on tour due to ailments in his entire career, it will be interesting to see what Federer is like on his return. The Swiss Maestro has so much tennis experience, but returning to the competitive courts after surgery is something that he is a stranger to.
Is the knee surgery the beginning of the end of Federer? Time will tell, and he has silenced his doubters before. But poor play in Rome and Roland Garros could see Federer drop out of the Top 4. If by Wimbledon 2016, he’s not back to the tennis he played last summer, and then a drop down to 6th or 7th is certainly not out of the question.
With how Dominic Thiem has been playing of late, I’ll be looking for him to leapfrog Federer in the rankings in 2016. That might sound far-fetched to some, but the 22-year old Austrian really has his game peaking right now as he eyes a title in Acapulco.