The start of the Australian Open’s main draw was delayed by three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic and is now scheduled to begin on February 8 at Melbourne Park.

The 39-year-old Federer is currently training in his usual off-season home of Dubai.

The choice to delay his comeback came with input from coaches Severin Luthi and Ivan Ljubicic and fitness coach Pierre Paganini.

Federer hasn’t played a tournament match since late January at the 2020 Australian Open, where he was clearly injured while losing in straight sets to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. Soon after, Federer played in an exhibition charity event with Rafael Nadal in front of a record tennis crowd of more than 50,000 people at a soccer stadium in Cape Town.

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Just weeks later, Federer announced he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and would be sidelined for at least four months.

He later had a second procedure on that knee and wound up missing the rest of the pandemic-altered season.

Until this knee issue, Federer only had his career interrupted once by an operation — on his left knee in 2016. He sat out the second half of that season, including the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the US Open, but was back at his best when he resumed playing, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 2017.

He won the Australian Open again the following year for his sixth trophy there, to go along with eight from Wimbledon, five from the US Open and one from the French Open to complete a career grand slam.

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While Federer was sidelined this year, Nadal equalled his men’s record for most major championships by collecting his 20th at Roland Garros in October. Federer posted a congratulatory message on social media to Nadal that day, saying he hopes “20 is just another step on the continuing journey for both of us.”

Djokovic’s title in Australia this year moved him closer to the other members of the Big Three of men’s tennis with a total of 17.

AP

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