When Roger Federer trudged off Rod Laver Court on Jan. 26, after a good, but disappointing four-set loss to rival Rafael Nadal, it marked eight consecutive major in which the World No. 3 was not the last man standing.
For someone who was so habituated to winning during his prime of 2003 to 2008, this streak is disappointing, to say the least, even if in that span he reached the quarterfinals all eight times and the semis five times.
At 30 years old, and with young guns like Nadal and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic taking over the tennis world, the window for a 17th major is closing at an alarming rate. 2012 could (although quite unlikely),be the Maestro's final year on tour.
To add to his all-time Slam record, Fed probably has a good shot at this year's three remaining majors, but will by no means be the favorite at either Roland Garros, Wimbledon or Flushing Meadows.
Federer has proven that he is still arguably the best player as far as best-of-three matches are concerned, having won titles in Basel, Paris, London, Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells since the 2011 US Open. Federer's record in three-set matches during that time is an astonishing 34-1 (his withdrawal against Jo-Wilfired Tsonga in Doha 2012 not withstanding).
So, now all tennis fans know that with a sufficient amount of energy, Roger can still wreak havoc, even with the best of them.
I have been surprised by Federer's schedule planning this year, because though he's only getting older, he added to his calendar Shanghai, Rotterdam and the Olympics, and only removed the Monte-Carlo Masters.
Now that he is playing more often in the non-major tournaments, it seems as if when these Slams do come around, Federer is tired, and unable to play such long, physically demanding matches.
One possibility to avoid these breakdowns and stop losing to other top players in the quarter or semifinal of bigger tournaments would be to put all his eggs in one basket, or go full steam ahead at one particular major.
Whether to grab an elusive second at Roland Garros, tie himself with Pete Sampras at seven Wimbledons or snatch a record-setting sixth at the US Open would be up to the Swiss Star; completely hinging on the players' preference.
Federer looked old and tired in his recent loss to Andy Roddick in Key Biscayne, and it is true that he has played in many tournaments (and made deep runs in these tournaments), so his lack of physical stability is very understandable.
We all now that Federer has been one player that has consistently figured the veteran American, this being proven by the lopsided 21-3 head-to-head between the two stars, so his recent loss is relatively disturbing.
Until the next major, Roland Garros, where Fed enters as defending runner-up, the native of Basel has planned to appear in a pair of Masters 1000 events, which are to be held in Madrid and Rome.
Federer has always looked a little bit inept on the dirt in Paris, so even if he drove into Porte d'Auteuil full speed ahead, it would still be considered a relative shocker if he added to his 2009 title over both six-time winner Nadal and red-hot Djoker.
So it would make more sense for Fed to look at bit further at the two slams where he has always seemed most content: Wimbledon and the US Open.
If he decides that he wants to aim his guns at Wimbledon, then one possibility would be to pull out of one of these two tournaments—preferably Rome because Federer has less points to defend, and also given that it comes nearer to Roland Garros—then play in Paris, obviously at his best, but not expending too much energy.
Even if his run in France is short-lived, Federer could get necessary grass-court training during the April/May clay-court season while his counterparts empty their tanks, and then grab his match-play experience on sod during the Gerry Weber Open in Halle.
He would have played less during the dirt season than Rafa and Nole, who along with the customary Masters 1000 shields, will also appear in Barcelona and Belgrade, respectively. Roger wouldn't have to experience the quick change from the slow, awkward clay to the fast, slick grass that his contemporaries would be forced to endure.
This would clearly put him in a better position as far as being comfortable as well as being physically fit.
If instead he wants to win in the City that Never Sleeps, he could keep his early summer schedule intact, except for not exerting extra grass-court energy in Germany and instead keeping all that he has left for NY.
We know that Federer can be good without even playing very many matches, and maybe he would benefit from not playing both Montreal and Cincinnati, first of all because they come right after the Olympics and also because he would be more tired, playing three tourneys heading into the final major.
The chances are out there for one all out push for major No. 17, instead of trying to just hit a lucky streak at one of these Grand Slams.
If the time for the Swiss native to be desperate arrives, the possibility of pulling out of a major is still a very small possibility.
Djokovic, Nadal and Murray are all just as hungry to add to (or start) their major counter, and it's only getting tougher to defeat these foes. Cashing in all his points may be Roger Federer's last chance.
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