Of all the records Roger Federer holds — they include the most major titles among the men at 17 and 23 grand slam semifinals in a row — the one that may last indefinitely is the Swiss’ streak of consecutive appearances at the sport’s four biggest tournaments.
But Federer’s run of 65 straight majors came to an end on Thursday when he pulled out of the French Open.
“I regret to announce that I have made the decision not to play in this year’s French Open,” the former world No. 1 announced on his Facebook page.
“I have been making steady progress with my overall fitness, but I am still not 100% and feel I might be taking an unnecessary risk by playing in this event before I am really ready.
“This decision was not easy to make, but I took it to ensure I could play the remainder of the season and help to extend the rest of my career. I remain as motivated and excited as ever and my plan is to achieve the highest level of fitness before returning to the ATP World Tour for the upcoming grass court season.
“I am sorry for my fans in Paris but I very much look forward to returning to Roland Garros in 2017.”
The last time Federer didn’t compete in a grand slam main draw was at the U.S. Open in 1999, when his fitness wasn’t a consideration.
He lost in the second round of qualifying to countryman Ivo Heuberger before commencing his impressive, unblemished stretch at the 2000 Australian Open.
Federer’s participation at the French Open was in doubt after he skipped the Madrid Masters this month with the back problem. Even though Federer played at the following week’s Rome Masters, just hours prior to his opening encounter he wasn’t sure if he would be able to take to the court.
Federer won a round over Alexander Zverev but then exited to Dominic Thiem, looking uncomfortable on court.
“Clearly the way I’m playing right now is never going to be enough for any good run in Paris,” he told reporters after the match.
Federer, perhaps, has an eye on the grass-court swing and August’s Rio Olympics. His best opportunity to win a record-extending 18th major — and first grand slam title since 2012 — continues to come at Wimbledon, where he is a seven-time champion.
Less than a month after Wimbledon concludes, Rio begins. Federer has never won an Olympic gold in singles and he is expected to partner Martina Hingis in mixed doubles.
Healthy for the majority of his career, if there’s one part of his body that has let Federer down, it has been the back. Issues noticeably took a toll on Federer in 2013 and he bailed from the final of the 2014 World Tour Finals because of the back, giving world No. 1 Novak Djokovic a walkover.
This season, Federer also underwent knee surgery, sustaining an injury while running a bath for his twin daughters the day after he lost to Djokovic at the Australian Open. Having recovered in time for March’s Miami Masters, he pulled out with a stomach illness.
Federer’s omission from the French Open means two of the most recognizable names in sports won’t be at the clay-court tournament — Maria Sharapova, long the world’s richest female athlete, is serving a provisional ban after testing positive for meldonium at the Australian Open.
Caroline Wozniacki, the former No. 1, pulled out in the aftermath of an ankle injury and Belinda Bencic, one of tennis’ youngest stars, is missing thanks to a back injury.
Australian Open winner Angelique Kerber and two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka, meanwhile, enter the event with their fitness in question. Azarenka has been women’s tennis’ most in-form player in 2016, compiling a 26-2 record.