KEY BISCAYNE (CBSMiami/AP) — Something that could happen to anyone is what sidelined one of tennis’ biggest stars.
Roger Federer blames a bathroom mishap while on parental duty for the knee injury that forced him to undergo surgery for the first time in his career.
Speaking Thursday on the eve of his first match since the Feb. 3 operation, Federer said he hurt himself while he was preparing a bath for his twin daughters. He turned and heard a click in his left knee.
“It was a very simple movement, probably a movement I’ve done a million times in my life,” he said. “I didn’t think much of it when it did happen.”
Soon his knee was swollen, and a few days later he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He’s scheduled to return Friday when he plays longtime rival Juan Martin del Potro at the Miami Open.
Federer, 34, has been a model of durability throughout his career. He’s playing Key Biscayne for the 16th time, although he did skip the tournament last year for scheduling reasons.
Federer made a late decision to enter the event this month, surprised and pleased by his speedy recovery. He was on crutches for 12 days and has trained without restrictions for the past nine days.
“Expectations are really low, which is nice for a change — just see where I am,” the 17-time Grand Slam champion said. “I’m just really pleased I’m back. I didn’t expect myself to be back here, to be quite honest, after the surgery.”
Federer’s layoff came during an eventful stretch for his sport, with Maria Sharapova’s career in jeopardy following a failed a doping test, and renewed debate about equal prize money for men and women. Federer offered his thoughts on each subject and said he was “completely surprised” by Sharapova’s suspension.
Federer said he doesn’t believe tennis has a doping problem but would like to see more consistency in testing.
“I’ve been in Dubai now for 10 years there and been tested once,” the Swiss star said. “That’s not OK for me. I get tested more in Switzerland, because the guy from Switzerland lives in my village. He comes and sees me the day after my surgery, and one week later.”
As for equal prize money, Federer said he’s all for it.
“I’m happy that tennis has produced some of the greatest female athletes in the world,” he said. “Equal prize money is a good thing.”
The first marquee match at Key Biscayne will be on the men’s side, with Federer facing another Grand Slam champion mounting a comeback from an injury. Del Potro returned to the tour in February after an 11-month layoff, during which he twice underwent surgery on his left wrist.
“His injury was much, much greater,” Federer said. “That’s why I’m really pleased for him that he was able to find a way back onto the tour.”
Federer is 15-5 against del Potro, including 5-1 in Grand Slam tournaments. That one loss came in the 2009 U.S. Open final for del Potro’s lone major title.