“Time flies,” Roger Federer said just before the New Year.
He was reminiscing about his history at the Hopman Cup, the team event where he was planning to begin his 2017 comeback after six months away from the tour.
Way back when, in another tennis lifetime and nearly another century, a teenage Federer—complete with a ponytail—had twice come to Perth to represent Switzerland. Both were memorable experiences: In 2001, he and Martina Hingis teamed to win the tournament; in 2002, he played with his future wife, Mirka Vavrinec. Now, 14 years and many haircuts later, Federer would be returning to pair with the newest Swiss hope, Belinda Bencic. The last time he was in Perth, he had yet to win a major title, and Bencic had yet to celebrate her fifth birthday.
Federer may not be facing Father Time just yet, but at 35 he seems to have settled into his role as Father Tennis to the game’s new generation. It didn’t take long for the Dad jokes to start flying Down Under. At the Hopman Cup’s New Year’s party, Federer stepped out on the dance floor with Bencic, Alexander Zverev, Daria Gavrilova, Kristina Mladenovic and others who are roughly two-thirds his age. If you didn’t recognize Fed’s face at the party, the dignified tuxedo he was sporting was probably a giveaway. As his fellow oldster, Andrea Petkovic—she’s 29—told him with a laugh, “Remember this, Roger. Remember the time we danced with a bunch of teenagers.”