John McEnroe thinks it would be “unbelievable” if Roger Federer could return to his highest level again – but does not want to see him on tour playing at “80 per cent”.
Federer, 40, returned from a lengthy lay-off in March last year but only played 13 matches before shutting down his season.
He has since undergone another knee surgery and has suggested he will not be ready to return in time for Wimbledon this year.
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“It goes without saying that anytime we are at an event where Roger is not playing we miss him,” McEnroe told Eurosport.
“He is the classiest player and the most beautiful player I have seen on a court. As a fan I would love to see Roger around.
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“As far as the future, he’s 40 years old. He’s had numerous surgeries on his knee, there’s a lot of wear and tear, it would be unbelievable if he could come back and get close to the level that he was at.
“I thought the same thing five years ago when I was coaching [Milos] Raonic and Roger walked off after the Wimbledon semi-finals [in 2016] and was limping and didn’t play for six months. Then he won the Australian Open.
“He’s pulled off the improbable before but this would be the most amazing of all if he was to win another Wimbledon.
“Whatever makes him happy is what he deserves. If he wants to play we will be happy he is playing but I don’t want to see Roger at 80 per cent. We have seen that with [Andy] Murray and it’s not easy. You want to see the top guys play at their best.”
Federer’s absence from the game over the last few years has allowed Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to draw level with him on 20 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic in particular has dominated at the majors and at 34 years old looks the most likely to finish his career atop the all-time Grand Slam standings, although his chances could be hit if he runs into more vaccination issues as he did at the Australian Open.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion McEnroe says it is tough to separate the trio and would like to see them stay tied.
Asked about the GOAT [Greatest Of All Time] battle, McEnroe said: “It depends on the day, who are you talking to, what surface. To me Rafa is the greatest clay court player, Novak is the greatest hard court, and I would call Roger the overall grass player. But then Novak has beaten him three times at Wimbledon.
“Novak also has a winning record against those two. He is slightly ahead but in a weird way I hope they all end up on the same number so we can have this discussion in 10 years and it will just be a matter of opinion and nobody would be wrong.”