Tennis Federer from the Australian Open: Agent from Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tennis – ATP World Tour Final

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Six-time champion Roger Federer retired from the Australian Open when he was getting fit early this year after two knee operations, his agent said.

The 39-year-old Swiss last played a competitive game at the Grand Slam at the start of the season in January before he had to undergo knee surgery. He later needed a second operation.

The start of the Australian Open 2021 has been postponed by three weeks to February 8 due to the country’s strict border rules to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Federer, who had trained in Dubai in his off-season, had told organizers that the delayed start of the tournament could benefit him.

However, his agent Tony Godsick said Federer wasn’t quite ready to return.

“Roger has decided not to play the Australian Open in 2021,” Godsick said in a statement. “He has made great strides in his knee and fitness over the past few months.

“However, after consulting with his team, he decided that the best long-term decision for him would be to return to competitive tennis after the Australian Open.”

Godsick added that he wanted to create a game calendar for Federer starting in late February.

Craig Tiley, tournament director for the Australian Open, said they were disappointed to lose Federer to next year’s event.

“In the end, Roger ran out of time to prepare for the rigors of a Grand Slam and he is very disappointed that he won’t be coming to Melbourne in 2021,” Tiley said in a statement.

“We wish him all the best as he prepares for his comeback later this year and look forward to seeing him in Melbourne in 2022.”

Federer has been ubiquitous since his first appearance at Melbourne Park when he lost in qualifying in 1999.

He has made 15 trips to the semi-finals and won the last of his six titles in Melbourne in 2018.

Federer reached the semi-finals earlier this year and lost to eventual winner Novak Djokovic.

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