Federer announced earlier this week that his slower than expected recovery from knee surgery would rule him out of the first major of 2021, ending an extraordinary run at Melbourne Park.
Since he first played in the main draw in 2000, Federer has made the third round or better on 21 consecutive occasions at the Australian Open.
But given the Swiss maestro will be 40 when the tournament returns to Melbourne in 2022, Woodbridge says we may have seen him in action for the last time.
“It’s a big disappointment for everyone, including himself, and it quite possibly means we won’t see Roger competing in Australia again at a grand slam, which is a great loss,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“It’s a loss that was expected, but I think we all would have liked it to have come on his terms, and not by the way it’s come about.
“The difficulty for him, I think, has been fitness obviously, but also quarantining. In the end that was probably the tipping point that made him decide not to come.”
Woodbridge, who won 22 grand slam doubles titles of his own, isn’t sure exactly when Federer will put the racquet away, and with this year’s schedule still in a state of flux, he isn’t sure the man himself knows either.
“At this point it’s too hard to say. It all rests on how the COVID schedule plays out. For Roger to continue on, he’ll have to be able to manage his body when he does come back.
“His goals, I assume, would be to play at the Olympics and at Wimbledon.
“Wimbledon is the major that I see him being able to win at this stage of his career.”
Woodbridge believes the coming months will give a clearer indication of Federer’s future.
“He needs the hardcourt season to go ahead following the Australian Open, and in my mind that’s only 50-50 at this point.
“At this point the claycourt season for him is only about getting matchplay so he can perform as well as he can on the grass.
“But if he misses too much matchplay, it’s very hard to see him being able to go all the way at a slam.”
Federer has only made one grand slam final since he won the 2018 Australian Open, his sixth victory at Melbourne Park.
And it’s that which is likely to influence his decision to retire, rather than age.
“A player of his stature, at some point when you’re not winning, you start to wonder about why you’re only making the quarter finals, when you’re used to being in the final,” Woodbridge explained.
“It doesn’t give the same adrenaline rush as it always has, and that’s when you start to think to yourself that you’ve got other things to do with your life.
“He’s a competitor who is driven to being the best, and that’s something he’s been able to do, even in recent years, otherwise he could have walked away after his back surgery in 2016.
“But he came back and won more slams. His legacy is secure in our sport through the way he’s carried himself over his career, even if in the end he’s surpassed in the grand slam title race.”
Federer hasn’t played since losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi finals of this year’s Australian Open, having undergone two surgeries on his knee in the meantime.
And the extended time away from the court is likely to be a problem when he returns.
“That’s the biggest challenge. It won’t be the first match or two, he’s so natural that he can come out and play shots and play well,” Woodbridge said.
“It’s all about the recovery. After he’s played two tough matches, can he back up for a third? How will the body feel? Will the legs be tired? They’re all the things you find at that age.
“He’s so attuned to the history of the sport, it’s one of his great attributes. He would know that Ken Rosewall made a Wimbledon final at 39.
“They’re the sort of things Roger looks at, he’s done that with Rod Laver in the past. Australia, and Australian tennis, has been an integral part of his career.”
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