Roger Federer was back in Switzerland on Thursday, contemplating a future which seems unlikely to include the Olympics later this month.
After his abrupt exit from Wimbledon and with conditions ever tightening in Japan, the 39-year-old is said to be strongly leaning towards skipping the troubled event in Tokyo.
Federer is reluctant to spend more time away from his family in another bubble, having stayed apart from them to comply with regulations this fortnight. Another reason he may not go is that he already has an Olympic gold medal, from the men’s doubles in Beijing 13 years ago.
Roger Federer faces huge doubts over his future after his dismal loss to Hubert Hurkacz
Weighing against that is the wrath Federer might incur from his Japanese clothing sponsor for taking a break now. Running deeper, however, is the exhaustion and shock which led to Wednesday’s embarrassing loss on Centre Court, a stage he has always graced with such distinction.
It was not so much that he lost, after coming into Wimbledon with little match play, to an inspired quarter-final opponent in Hubert Hurkacz. It was more the manner.
Federer showed such little pride in the third set, which he conceded 6-0. If someone like Nick Kyrgios or Benoit Paire had lost in that fashion, there would have been a stewards’ inquiry.
Speaking in his native French later, Federer used the phrase ‘ca secoue un peu’ — it shakes a bit — to describe how he was feeling after that display. It was not that different to how he talked barely three weeks ago at the ATP event in Halle, Germany, when he was cross at how he failed to compete in the final set of his defeat by Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The manner of his shock Wimbledon exit was concerning with the Swiss looking exhausted
The tennis legend played with no pride as he was stunningly beaten 6-0 in the third set
Federer was very careful when discussing his future on Wednesday evening, but among his legion of fans the alarm bells should be ringing at this happening twice in close proximity.
It has always seemed likely that the end point for Federer would come when he began struggling to compete aggressively with players he has always had the beating of.
As American legend Chris Evert observed in her role with the BBC, the physical demands of the modern game are finally catching up.
‘It looked like it wasn’t only his game, it looked like he was a little weary,’ she said. ‘This is a big decision for him, he’s 40. Tennis has been half his life and the other half is in the future for him.
Federer looks unlikely to compete for Switzerland in the Tokyo Olympics this summer
‘If he’s going to come back, he’s got to work harder than he’s ever worked before and he’s got to realise there are a lot of young guys coming up who are dangerous. He and Serena sort of have the same path. It’s going to be tougher and tougher.
‘If he wants to play, he’s going to have to deal with more losses.’
Federer has always been proud of his achievements and keen to project an immaculate image. He will not want to damage the legacy he leaves behind, nor the brand.
Someone sure to have a major say is wife Mirka, the quietly formidable power behind the throne, and his deliberations over the coming days will not be in haste.
It appears the vigours of the modern game are finally catching up to Federer aged 39
He would not wish that display on Centre Court to be his last, but a year is a long time away at his age. He will be trying to work out if he can realistically make it to next summer without compromising the standards he has set his whole career. Andy Murray will be having a similar internal debate.
In Federer’s case, there are still certain events coming up which require his consideration, such as the US Open, which suggest Wednesday was not a full stop.
Late September should see the resumption of the Laver Cup in Boston, a tournament in which he is deeply invested in a financial and reputational sense, as the Europe v Rest of the World event was his brainchild.
Federer’s attendance is required to establish it in the calendar and it is due to take place in London next autumn.
He won’t want his display at Wimbledon to be his last and can bounce back at the US Open
One factor off the table is the ATP event in his hometown of Basle, which has been touted as one place where he would like to bid farewell. Last month it was cancelled again from its usual late October date. Whatever Federer decides, and he said the Olympics decision would be finalised within days, it is unlikely he will suddenly vanish.
A lucrative afterlife awaits him of playing exhibition matches, perhaps including as a guest at the Laver Cup, as for a long time there will be an appetite to see him play, even in reduced form.
What is clear, however, is that when it comes to the rarefied air of the main tour, he will not be adding to his 20 Grand Slam titles.