Roger Federer is gearing up for a very different season in 2016. Not only has the 17-time Grand Slam champ parted ways with boyhood idol Stefan Edberg and brought in Ivan Ljubicic, but he’s made some wholesale changes to his schedule. See if you can spot them:
Here is my tentative 2016 schedule. Happy holidays and thanks for all your support! ??? pic.twitter.com/b3TtZCmYQh
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) December 17, 2015
Yep, that’s right: no clay court events before Roland Garros. That’s three – three! – ATP Masters 1000 events he’s skipping in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome, where he reached the final in 2015, plus a no-show as defending champion in Istanbul.
The likely explanation for all this is the Olympics. Rio – which will be played on a hard court – drops in between the Toronto and Cincinnati legs of the American swing leading up to the US Open, and promises to be a busy campaign for the 34-year-old.
The Olympic singles gold medal is the one significant trophy missing from Federer’s collection, and he has already confirmed his spot in the mixed doubles with Martina Hingis while it would be a shock for him to pass on another shot at the doubles with Stan Wawrinka.
Smart move? Maybe. What it means for his French Open prospects is anyone’s guess, though the word ‘tentative’ underlines the fact this is subject to change – who is going to deny Federer a wildcard if he opts for Plan B?
But with 950 points dropping off his ranking total in April and May, the Australian Open becomes even more important in keeping himself among the top four. Starting the season at No.3, Federer has just 90 points to defend after his shock third-round exit in 2015, and a semi-final appearance – which he had reached every year since 2004, until Andreas Seppi’s stunning win – would bag him 720, all but negating any losses in the European spring.
That all seems pretty sensible. Just one question, Roger: what are you going to do with yourself for nine weeks?
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