The last 12 months have been all quiet on the western front when it comes to news surrounding Roger Federer.
Apart from a few social media posts to fulfil endorsement deals, the Swiss has kept an exceptionally low profile.
Videos of him practising have been non-existent, and updates on his progress after double knee surgery both vague and sporadic.
However, thanks to the Swiss tennis writer, René Stauffer, we have finally had some more information after he interviewed Roger's legendary fitness coach, Pierre Paganini, for the daily newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. (German/Paywall)
This was the first interview Paganini has given in over a year, and he revealed both the level of work required to get back to the tour and what Roger is expecting of himself when he steps back on the court.
The interview was extremely considered as you'd expect, but Paganini did reveal plenty of tidbits about the injury and Federer's road to recovery.
Interestingly, Federer's knee woes were not something out of the blue, and Paganini revealed it was a persistent but manageable problem over the years until it finally required surgery.
This knee had been causing him problems for several years. But you could have them under control, with adapted planning and specific exercises. He and the whole team had been working on it for a long time. The fact that a player who has played over 1,500 matches has several construction sites on his body is part of everyday life. Pierre Paganini speaking with Tages-Anzeiger
Can The 2017 Resurgence Be Replicated?
All fans would like a repeat of 2017, but it doesn't take a world-renowned fitness trainer to realise that will be unlikely given the seriousness of the two surgeries and the length of time away from even basic fitness training.
The big difference is: When he paused to Australia after Wimbledon in 2016, his muscles were actually always there. Now we had a total interruption in which the muscles deteriorated considerably. There was a long time between the first operation and the moment in July when we said we could slowly start working progressively again. His muscles were no longer in the same condition at all, the imbalances were extreme. His muscles could no longer work immediately and needed a longer recovery time. When I started working with him, we were at the bottom. That means: You try to do everything that is possible. At the same time, you have to do it several times so that the body learns to endure repetitions at a certain level. And then you have to pause and see how the body reacts.
Roger only plays when he knows that he can play well again. Now we all have to see how the body reacts. It is important to protect him. You have to have done a lot by now if you want to get back on the pitch. It's really not comparable to 2016. Roger is already celebrating a big win if he can go back on the pitch, play and then say: Hey guys, I played, I was fine, I'm looking forward to the next match. Or, if he lost, to the next tournament.Pierre Paganini
What Level is Federer at Currently?
Given that Federer's comeback is now just a couple of weeks away, you'd be hopeful that he's able to train normally.
According to Paganini, that is the case, but the real test will come when pre-exhaustion type training which so far they have not done a lot of.
He actually trains almost normally. If you were to watch you would say: he is not hurt, everything is fine. But one must not forget: Only when all the stages are over do you begin to work on reactivity in pre-exhaustion. This is very important in tennis. We haven't been working on that for very long, and that's where you can see if the puzzle works, in all variations. Here we are now. We are so far that one says: Wow, this is real fitness and tennis training, you sweat, you don't have to think about your knee every second. You prepare everything, and then he can fire again. That is good for him, because it took an incredible amount of patience to get to this point. It's crazy when you think about all of this. Paganini on Federer's current training regime
The full interview can be read here: Er war richtig stolz, über die Hürde gesprungen zu sein which in English means “He was really proud to have jumped the hurdle”
Although it is unfortunately paywalled and in German, it's a great read, and while not a ‘tell all', there are plenty of bits of information you can piece together.
Rather than the platitudes that can be drawn from the article about never giving up, staying positive, live for tomorrow, follow your passion yadda yadda yadda, the most interesting for me was the process involved.
Roger started from almost zero, and Paganini revealed he had to start doing exercises that a 70-year-old would find simple.
That highlights that without someone in your corner who knows what to do and when to do it, there is no way back (or if there is, it will be ten times longer). You need a roadmap out of there and thanks to Major Paganini, Private Federer gets another shot on the battlefield in Doha.
As always, let me know your thoughts on the article in the comments.