The news of Roger Federer’s withdrawal from this year’s French Open spread like wildfire in the tennis world. All week, Federer had been practicing at Roland Garros but those, who watched him wince in pain, were convinced that the Swiss Maestro looked less than match-fit. His back injury has seriously curtailed his preparations and finally he announced his decision to withdraw from the tournament on Facebook. Over the years, Federer had enthralled the crowds at the Grand Slam venues and he hasn’t missed a single Major for 17 years. The last time Federer missed a Grand Slam was in August 1999, when he couldn’t qualify for US Open, having lost to compatriot Ivo Heuberger in the second round of the qualifying tournament. Those days, Pete Sampras was the world no.1 and social media was a term that people couldn’t relate to. Federer may have lost some sheen in his game in recent times but his presence on tennis courts is still very refreshing. In that sense, Federer has become the only player to enjoy unstinted universal adulation, regardless of where he plays. His absence at the famed Roland Garros will snap his streak of 65 straight Grand Slam appearances during which he won a record 17 titles. There is little doubt that Federer is the most successful men’s player in the Open era.

Roger Federer2016 has been a frustrating year for Roger Federer. After the Australian Open, he has played in just three more tournaments because of various injuries. Federer will turn 35 this August and he is currently having the recurrence of the back injury that caused him huge problems throughout 2013. In 2014, however, he came back a rejuvenated man and since then he didn’t miss much until a few months ago. In a freak incident of running his twin daughters a bath, Federer tore his knee cartilage and was out of action for long. This was very soon after he lost in the semifinals of the Australian Open. He had the surgery on the left knee on February 3 and announced he would take part in Miami Open only to withdraw at the last moment due to a stomach virus. Federer skipped Mutua Madrid Open because the back injury still troubled him. However, Federer came back to play in last week’s Rome Masters and lost to Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the third round. The Swiss star looked less than comfortable and couldn’t reach for the balls from his opponent that would require him to stretch wide.

In his statement, Federer said that it was a tough decision for him to pull out of Roland Garros because of lack of match fitness. He added he didn’t want to take needless risks in order to play in the remainder of the 2016 tennis season that would also include Wimbledon and participation in the Rio Olympic Games. Federer’s decision was aimed at extending his career, though he didn’t cite a specific injury in his withdrawal statement. The die-hard Federer fans are all praise for his remarkable longevity, sound technique, serious preparation, intelligent scheduling and an attacking mind-set.

Federer’s withdrawal from French Open will make 9-time champion Rafael Nadal as the fourth seed and the Spaniard would not run into either Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray until the quarter-finals. Nadal’s stranglehold at Paris over the years has denied many top players the honor of lifting the trophy at Roland Garros. While Federer has won here once in 2009, Djokovic and Murray are still nursing their Roland Garros dreams.