For the first time in its nearly century-and-a-half history, Wimbledon was cancelled for a reason other than war as it became the latest major sporting event in 2020 to fall victim of the coronavirus pandemic.
One sure way to make the always polite and highly-mannered Roger Federer roll his eyes in a press conference is to keep asking the ‘R-word’. Retirement.
The question has not been on the lips of journalists this Australian summer, as it was in late 2018, thanks to the scintillating form he was in leading up to the Australian Open.
He looked as sharp as ever at the Hopman Cup and probably even believed himself that a third straight Australian title was a very realistic possibility.
The sparkle in his eyes and the bounce in his step was very noticeable in the early rounds of the Open as he dispatched Denis Istomen, Dan Evans and Taylor Fritz.
The 37-year-old Federer had stated last year the ‘age is just a number’ as a response to the ever present retirement question.
After his third-round demolition of Fritz, he was reminded of his quote in the press conference. The journalist (this author) then reminded him that the great Jamaican, later Slovenian, sprinter Merlene Ottey had also lived by that mantra in her, still yet to end, career.
For the record, Ottey; won Olympic silver at age 40 in Sydney in 2000 and was a semi-finalist in Athens aged 44, narrowly missed qualifying the Slovenian relay team for Beijing in 2008 aged 48, ran a sub 12-second 100 metres aged 52 and is still competing at a national level at age 58.
“I won’t be doing that,” Federer stated.
Federer was then asked, with Ottey in mind, if his best was yet to come.
“No,” he replied politely.
“The last ten years were perhaps more fun than the first ten but now with four children and the career that I have had and my body … I want my body to be somewhat healthy when I retire.
“I don’t think that (competing at that age) is a good idea to be quite honest.
“For the time being it’s all good.
“The lights are on green and I am injury free, I am enjoying myself, the kids are having a great time too on the tour, my wife is happy and for the moment there are no complaints or plans.
“I am happy where I am in my life and my career right now.
“But these numbers (Ottey’s career) are definitely something else – unreachable numbers.”