Roger Federer will miss the Australian Open for the first time in his career as he continues his recovery from knee surgery.
The 20-time grand slam champion has undergone two operations on his right knee in 2020, the second one in June, and his progress since has been slower than he had hoped.
In a statement, tournament director Craig Tiley said: “In the end Roger ran out of time to get himself ready for the rigours of a grand slam and he’s very disappointed he won’t be coming to Melbourne in 2021.
“The Australian Open has always held a special place in his heart – remember it was Roger who first called the AO the ‘happy slam’.
“We wish him all the best as he prepares for his comeback later in the year and look forward to seeing him in Melbourne in 2022.”
At 39, it is no surprise that Federer’s body is proving slow to heal and he paved the way for this announcement earlier this month.
It had been hoped the pushing back of the Australian Open by three weeks to February 8 because of coronavirus restrictions would give Federer enough time but, speaking at the Swiss Sports Awards, he said: “I would love to be in Australia. But I’m very close with my knee.
“After the second operation I said to myself: ‘I want to take my time. I don’t want to take the next step until I’m ready’. The summer with Wimbledon, the Olympic Games and the US Open is my priority.”
Federer is a six-time champion in Melbourne and made a spectacular return from surgery on his left knee by winning his first grand slam title for four-and-a-half years in 2017.
He retained his title the following year and this will be the first time his name will be absent from the main draw since 1999.
This announcement will inevitably increase talk about how close Federer, who has not played a match since losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals in Melbourne in January, is to the end of his glittering career.
Wimbledon appears to be his best, and perhaps only, chance of winning a 21st grand slam title and there is no doubt he will hope to be competing at the All England Club come June.