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tugged at fans’ heartstrings during a question and answer session on social media this week, particularly when asked about a possible return to tennis. The Swiss has been retired from the professional game since last September, when his knee injury proved too troublesome to overcome.

Tennis enthusiasts jumped at the chance to gain an insight into Federer’s current state of affairs when he invited questions on Twitter this Tuesday. Many yearn to see him return to the spotlight and become more involved in the sport.

A knee injury kept Federer sidelined for almost two years at the tail-end of his career, leaving fans with only a fleeting but emotional farewell at the Laver Cup in 2022.

It was no surprise, then, to see one fan quiz Federer on when he would be ‘coming back’. The eight-time Wimbledon champion responded: “I never really left.”

The emotional reply sparked a frenzy on social media, where @MOVIIIIC wrote: “I’M GONNA CRY MAN, I CAN’T CONTROL MY TEARS, ONE MORE GAME ROGER.” Meanwhile, @spicycari added: “Ouchie, this one hurt.”

Although there is no prospect of seeing Federer return to the court in a competitive playing capacity, there had been hope among some fans that he would turn out as a commentator at Wimbledon later this summer.

Reports indicated that a role with the BBC was in the pipeline, although Federer poured cold water over an imminent move to the commentary box by admitting that he has ‘no plans‘ to do so this year.

The tennis icon retired from the sport with a whopping 20 Grand Slam titles, although with his ‘Big Three’ rivals still actively pursuing major silverware, both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic sit two ahead in the all-time charts.

Djokovic could become the standalone leader if he wins at the French Open next month, with Nadal ruled out through injury.

The Spaniard has also admitted that he could join his great rival, Federer, by retiring next year. “I won’t be playing for the next few months,” he said. “On a personal level, day-to-day work, things are difficult. It’s difficult to be deprived of what’s a big part of your life.

“I hope to be ready by the Davis Cup, and I want to play in 2024, which should be the last year of my career. I want to be able to enjoy it and to say goodbye to tournaments that I want.”