Much was expected of Roger Federer in the 2016 season after his strong showing in 2015, but constant injury worries caused the 17-time Grand Slam champion to miss large chunks of the season, including the majority of the second half of the year. Despite only playing seven tournaments, Federer still reached four semifinals and made a final appearance in Brisbane before losing to Milos Raonic in two close sets. His lack of matches since Wimbledon has led to the former world number one dropping to sixteenth in the current world rankings.
Despite only playing seven events, Federer’s win/loss ratio stands at an impressive 21-7, with two wins being registered at each event, other than a third round exit in Rome to Dominic Thiem. On the ATP World Tour 52 week index, Federer finds himself 5th in the tour with 0.750, meaning he finishes just ahead of rivals Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal. However, the stat can be viewed differently when considering the amount of matches each of the trio has played. Federer only featured in 28, compared to 53 with Nadal, and 61 from Wawrinka.
Despite only playing half of the season, Federer still had memorable high points including yet more impressive showings on grass. The Swiss star arrived in Germany for back-to-back grass tournaments with fitness doubts hanging over him, but he still progressed to two semifinals where two rising youngsters proved too much in two three-set matches. In Stuttgart, he held two match points against Dominic Thiem, with the Austrian saving both to go on to secure victory and later the title that weekend. In Halle, David Goffin was edged out in the quarterfinals, before Alexander Zverev got the better of a lackluster performance from the 35-year-old to head into his first ever ATP Tour level final. These positive showings gave some encouragement to Federer’s fans heading to Wimbledon, where another semifinal showing followed after a stunning comeback against Marin Cilic, where he had trailed by two sets in their last eight clash.
The year had started brightly in Australia, with only Raonic proving too much in the Brisbane final, before Novak Djokovic put in an impressive performance on his way to yet another Australian Open title. Unfortunately, injuries hit after both key periods of Federer’s 2016 season, but the positives were still there heading into 2017.
As already highlighted, injuries proved to be the low point throughout the season, with Federer never seemingly 100% fit after the knee injury sustained shortly after the Australian Open. The bizarre injury caused him to take a break from the tour until the Masters 1000 event in Monte-Carlo, with the lack of match time affecting him in a three-set loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. More doubts were thrown around after exiting to Thiem in Rome, with the severity of the knocks only realized when Federer announced he would miss the French Open, to the shock of many.
The grass season produced plenty of positives, but injuries again got the better of the 17-time Grand Slam champion, as he withdrew from the tour for the rest of the year, missing the Rio Olympics and the US Open.
Federer’s best result arguably came in his stunning comeback victory over Cilic at Wimbledon, after trailing by two sets. The Croat was hitting consistent winners from both sides, and seemed set to reach the semifinal after clinching the first two sets 7-5 (4), 6-4. The 27-year-old even held multiple match points in the fourth set tie-breaker, but Federer’s fighting ability, combined with Cilic getting tight, enabled the seven-time champion to level the match up, before winning the decider 6-3.
One of his most complete performances came at the opening Grand Slam of the year, with Goffin on the receiving end of a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 loss. The fourth round victory only took 88 minutes, with the Swiss player hitting 39 winners alongside 7 aces.
Federer’s injury-cut year did not feature any particularly alarming early exits, with the Swiss failing to make the quarterfinal stage at a tournament just once, in April at the Rome Masters. It was clear he was far from 100%, so suggesting the loss to Thiem is his worst result of 2016 shows that there were plenty of positives. The 6-7 (2), 4-6 does not look particularly bad, but Thiem looked controlled after taking a one-sided opening tie-breaker and never looked like throwing his lead away after breaking in the second set. Federer was just recovering from an injury at the Australian Open, and wanted to gain some matches under his belt before the second Grand Slam of the year at Roland Garros. This lack of match-time, plus an impressive display from Thiem, meant he exited the Rome masters at an early stage.
Despite missing half of the year, Federer still reached the semifinals at both of the two Grand Slam’s he featured in, as well as two other last four showings and a final defeat to Raonic in Brisbane. The season grade cannot be very high with the injuries plaguing his year, but it’s only fair that the injuries were considered when awarding the grade, particularly when his statistics from the 6 months he featured in were positive. Skipping the second half of the season was surely frustrating for players and fans alike, but the long rest period has surely allowed Federer to reach full fitness once again.
He also broke Martina Navratilova’s record for the most victories at Grand Slams, only for Serena Williams to overtake him shortly afterward. Who would bet on the 35-year-old surpassing the American yet again?