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After nearly 20 years atop the game, Roger Federer is coming to terms with his tennis mortality. The 40-year-old announced he'll be unable to compete in January's Australian Open and would be "incredibly surprised" to return in time for Wimbledon in 2022. 

Federer is recovering from August knee surgery, his third procedure in a year and a half. His last appearance was a quarterfinal loss to Hubert Hurkacz in July's Wimbledon quarterfinal. The Swiss star announced he would undergo his most recent surgery a month after Wimbledon, hoping it would give his return to the tour a "glimmer of hope." 

In an interview with Tribune de Genève, Federer outlined what his ideal return would look like -- and admitted it won't be a lengthy one. 

"Even if I know that the end is near, I want to try and play some more big matches," Federer said. "That will not be easy, but I want to try.

"Let's be clear: My life is not going to fall apart if I don't play another Grand Slam final," added Federer, who underwent two right knee surgeries within five months in 2020. "But that would be the ultimate dream — to get back there. I want to see one last time what I'm capable of as a professional tennis player."

Federer's 20 major singles championships are tied with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal for the most ever. He claimed eight at Wimbledon, six at the Australian Open, five at the U.S. Open and one at the French Open. But while the end of Federer's career would make it easier for Djokovic to pass him on the all-time majors list, the Serbian isn't rooting for it to come any time soon. 

"Obviously, Roger is an icon of our sport, and people around the world love him," Djokovic said Wednesday. "They love watching him play; they love seeing him around. He is very important for our sport, on and off the court. So for the sake of our sport, I sincerely hope that we can see him play, at least another time."

Federer said he plans to resume running in January and return to the court with "complex support" in March or April. That timeline would hold him out of January's Australian Open and likely May's French Open and July's Wimbledon. 

Whenever his return comes, though, Federer hopes to make it memorable. 

"My ambition is to see what I'm capable of one last time," Federer said. "I also wish I could say goodbye in my own way and on a tennis court. That's why I give my all in my rehabilitation."