Olympic tennis gets dealt another huge blow as Federer withdraws for the season

No. 3-ranked Roger Federer announced that he’s withdrawing from the rest of the 2016 season in a Facebook post today. It’s a huge blow to men’s tennis. But it’s an even bigger blow to the Rio Olympics.

2016 has been anything but smooth for the 34-year-old Swiss star who’s dominated the game for close to two decades. He’s been plagued by injuries, missing his first Grand Slam since 1999 when he opted not to play in the French Open. The season didn’t start so terribly: Federer made it to the semifinals of the Australian Open in January. But he slipped soon after while giving his twin daughters a bath and tore the meniscus in his left knee.

After seeming to recover from knee surgery and keep the issues with his back in check, Federer fought his way to the semifinals at Wimbledon a few weeks ago, ultimately losing to Milos Raonic. Things looked promising: He was playing well, and said —with his usual grace and charm — that he was feeling healthy at press conferences after his matches.

But it was too good to be true. And while Federer’s absence will have an impact on the world tour, it will have a much bigger affect on the viewership of Olympic tennis. With his withdrawal, the count of top 25 men’s players who aren’t playing in the Olympics is up to 8: Milos Ranoic, Dominic Thiem, John Isner, Feliciano Lopez, Tomas Berdych, Nick Kyrgios, and Bernard Tomic have all said they’re skipping the games due to concerns about scheduling or Zika.

epa05357052 Dominic Thiem (facing) from Austria and Roger Federer from Switzerland shaking hands after the semi final match between Thiem and Federer at the ATP Tournament at Weissenhof in Stuttgart, Germany, 11 June 2016.  EPA/MARIJAN MURAT

EPA

Several other players outside the top 25, such as Ernests Gulbis, aren’t going, either. And while Rafael Nadal is still set to compete in Rio, it’s questionable whether he will actually be able to: He’s still out of commission due to his wrist injury, and isn’t playing in the Rogers Cup in Canada this week.

These absences are hugely significant for the 2016 games, and there’s still time for more people to drop out. When about 30 percent of the world’s top players aren’t competing on the world stage, there’s no way tennis will draw the same amount of attention or be as fun to watch as it would if there were a better showing.

Sure, No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic is still going, and so are Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, and many more big names. But even when Federer was planning to go, the withdrawal of so many top players was bound to have a detrimental affect on the level of play and level of interest in tennis Rio. And now, without him, things just got that much worse.

For The Win
Olympic tennis gets dealt another huge blow as Federer withdraws for the season
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