Roger Federer will play on in 2020 and, as part of our series looking ahead to next season on the ATP Tour, we look at his prospects.
Even those fans who did not support Roger Federer during his era of dominance on the ATP Tour have surely changed their allegiance now.
With every passing year it has become more important to acknowledge and appreciate the talents of the Swiss superstar as he nears the end of his illustrious tennis career.
Federer has confirmed he will play on for 2020, a year in which he will turn 39, as he looks to increase his record total of 20 Grand Slam titles.
It is a remarkable number, though one that is coming under increasing threat from rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have 19 and 16 majors respectively.
If he has dropped to second or third on that list by the time those three greats have reached retirement, Federer’s status as a legend of the game would still unquestionably be secure.
But while Federer’s longevity has proven sensational, surpassing even his expectations, it would be difficult to look at the final years of his career without a significant sense of frustration if he cannot add another major, one which would crown his career in the grandest style.
He may still play for another two years or even longer yet but, whatever his timescale, a man who sets himself the highest of standards would be rueful if he finishes with the 2018 Australian Open crown as his final major triumph.
Federer will still be haunted by the two championship points he could not convert against Djokovic towards the end of an epic Wimbledon final in 2019.
He has now lost all three of his finals played against Djokovic at Wimbledon, a tournament with which he has become synonymous.
Aside from missing out on a Slam, 2019 was another productive year for Federer, who finished with a year-end ranking of three after winning four titles (including his 100th on the ATP Tour) and making six finals.
He may not be a player at his physical peak nor is he as consistent as he once was, but the veteran continues to be capable of producing unmatched excellence.
The majors, though, have been a let down.
While a heavy defeat to Nadal after a creditable run to the semi-finals on his return to playing at Roland Garros can easily be explained away, shock losses to John Millman, Kevin Anderson, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Grigor Dimitrov have seen other Grand Slam opportunities slip by since that Melbourne success.
But a roaring ATP Finals victory over Djokovic last month, his first win against the Serbian since 2015, suggested there was still more left in the tank on the biggest occasions going into next year.
After that tournament in London, where Tsitsipas knocked him out in the last four, Federer insisted he still felt good physically.
He also talked about how much better the perception of his season would have been had he performed slightly better in a handful of pivotal moments.
Per the ATP Tour, Roger Federer said of the upcoming 2020 campaign:
“I’m happy how I played this season and I’m extremely excited for next season. I thought I played some consistent, solid tennis. I’ve got to keep on playing at the level like I have this year and then I will create some chances.
“I’ve got to take care of my body, listen to the signs, work well with the team, get the balance right with everything that’s happening in my life and maybe do even a better job at figuring these moments [in big matches] out, because the opportunities were there.
“They were there [against Tsitsipas] and there in other moments as well this season, maybe Indian Wells or Wimbledon. That can change an entire season around, the confidence around, the flow of things.”
Federer is quite right in that he is putting himself in positions to challenge and a different bounce of the ball on championship point would have completely changed the narrative of his year and this last chapter of his career.
However, you do sense that he, and his supporters, know time is starting to run out heading into the 2020 campaign.
Federer would give anything for one last major win and after the missed chances over recent years, such a victory would feel all the sweeter.
It would change everything about how his final years on Tour were remembered, enhance his legacy to perhaps untouchable levels and cap his career in the perfect way.
If he succeeds, it will surely prove Roger Federer’s most popular triumph yet.