Roger Federer is never again going to be the undisputed best tennis player in the world. If there was nothing else to be learned from his four-set loss to Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open this week, that lesson came through loud and clear.
During Federer’s extraordinary run at the top of the world rankings, he rarely lost even to archrival Nadal and certainly didn’t look as bad doing so as he did in losing 11 consecutive points to the Spaniard in Melbourne.
Whether it’s age catching up with the 30-year-old or the improvement of younger luminaries like Nadal and Novak Djokovic, it’s hard to imagine Federer having too many years left as a title contender at the top-tier tournaments.
With that said, the Swiss star isn’t done yet and he’ll be a dangerous foe at Roland Garros this spring. Federer won the French Open as recently as 2009 and even the mighty Nadal—the greatest clay-court player in history—needed four closely-fought sets to dispatch him in last year’s final.
It seems inevitable that Nadal and Djokovic, opponents in the last three Grand Slam finals, will be the top two seeds at the French. Federer, though, should get a top-four seed himself and with it, a draw that gives him a good shot at a semifinal meeting with one of the other two members of the once-vaunted “trivalry.”
Whether that’s Djokovic (who has yet to make the finals at Roland Garros) or Nadal, Federer won’t bow out easily. Even with the daunting prospect of having to defeat both of them in consecutive matches, Federer has a legitimate shot to add to his record total of 16 Grand Slam titles.