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Tennis star Roger Federer rules out return to competition before 2021 due to knee injury

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Switzerland's Roger Federer during a second-round match of the 2019 French Open against Germany's Oscar Otte.
Switzerland's Roger Federer during a second-round match of the 2019 French Open against Germany's Oscar Otte.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Christophe Ena
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Tennis superstar Roger Federer announced on Wednesday that he will stay off the court until 2021 following a third surgical procedure on his knee.

The Swiss tennis maestro, 38, said that he underwent "an additional quick arthroscopic procedure" on his right knee a few weeks ago after experiencing a setback during his rehabilitation from surgery in February.

"Now, much like I did leading up to the 2017 season, I plan to take the necessary time to be 100% ready to play at my highest level," he wrote in a statement.

"I will be missing my fans and the tour dearly but, I will look forward to seeing everyone back on tour at the start of the 2021 season," he added.

The twenty-time Grand Slam singles champion cut short his 2016 season because of knee and back injuries, the first of which needed surgical intervention.

When he returned to the court in 2017, he had dropped to 16th in the ATP rankings, but he finished the season ranked second after winning a total of seven titles including the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Federer played his last match of 2020 at the Australian Open when he lost in straight sets in the semi-final against Serbia's Novak Djokovic, who went on to clinch the title.

The Association for Tennis Professionals (ATP) suspended play in March for an initial period of six weeks due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The suspension has since been extended to July 31.

"We continue to assess all our options in an effort to resume the Tour as soon as it's safe to do so, including the feasibility of rescheduling events later in the season," chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement.

Tournaments taking place from August 1, 2020, are for now maintained.

Federer is the oldest male player on the ATP circuit and has for now expressed no wish to retire but this new lengthy break is likely to fuel speculation.

The Swiss ace holds the record for the most men's Grand Slams singles titles, ahead of Spain's Rafal Nadal and Djokovic who have 19 and 17 respectively.

With pre-tax earnings of $106 million, he also took the first spot in Forbes magazine's latest highest-paid athletes list, ahead of football superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.