When he won the Madrid Open a few weeks ago, Roger Federer looked OK.
Then, when he lost to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinals and followed that up with a loss in the Gerry Weber Open finals to 34-year-old Tommy Haas, the outlook on the Swiss superstar wasn't so good anymore.
Suddenly, Federer doesn't look lethal on grass—a surface on which he once dominated—and he doesn't look good enough to contend with the No. 1 or the No. 2 players in the world with the summer's biggest major fast approaching. Suddenly, that bid for a 17th major looks much farther off than it did even a year ago.
If Federer doesn't win at Wimbledon (which is still a long shot as it is, considering how well his competition is playing), he'll be 31 by the time he returns again—just about the age where anyone not named Pete Sampras is too old to contend for a title.
Though Federer's performance at Halle last weekend didn't offer much of an indication that he stands a chance at Wimbledon, here's a look at what some of the experts are saying about his odds of winning again for the first time since 2009:
SI.com's Jon Wertheim doesn't think Federer's chances at Wimbledon are completely shot after his loss to Haas at Halle. Maybe playing on the grass at Halle will be good prep for Wimbledon.
Then again, though, grass is Federer's preferred surface, and his loss at Halle seems to point toward bigger problems. Whether it's just fatigue or something more remains to be seen.
But as Sean Randall of Tennis-X.com points out, Federer hasn't been great on grass of late. He's 0-4 in grass tournaments since 2010 after two losses each at Wimbledon and at Halle, and he's lost to such inferior opponents (at least, in terms of the rankings) that it leaves you to wonder what exactly is wrong with Federer.
Maybe it is the grass, Randall suggests:
Grass demands big power and if you don’t have that, then speed and quickness (balls just don’t bounce up on grass like they do on other surfaces, hence the need for speed among other assets). Federer … had that speed, that timing, those electric reflexes that allowed him to track down shots and return first services that almost no one else could, ever. But now as he approaches 31, it’s only reasonable to that Father Time has taken some of those reflexes and foot speed away. The net result is he’s now longer able to reach or return as many balls as he use to on the grass.
Sportige.com points out that Federer really, really needed to win at Halle this weekend after suffering such a decisive defeat to Djokovic at Roland Garros, and the fact that he failed—losing to someone who's more than three years older and hasn't beaten him in over 10 years—is a warning sign heading into Wimbledon.
Can Roger Federer make it to the finals at Wimbledon? And can he win?
Given his age, it's hard to see how Federer can contend with his younger counterparts through five sets, especially when competition is as high as it will be against Nadal or Djokovic. There will be no second chances against them like he may have had at Roland Garros.
Federer will need luck to contend at Wimbledon, and it's not likely he'll get it. Nadal and Djokovic in particular will make him pay for his weaknesses.
Still, Yahoo! Sports' Simon Reed (grudgingly) remains on Team Federer. He admits that this year's tournament might be one of the closest in years, but Federer is still a master on grass (supposedly) and can't be counted out, whatever his recent performances might suggest. Though Reed writes that Federer is "as close to a grass-court specialist as one can get these days," he wouldn't put any money on him.
Instead, he'd take Djokovic.
Bottom line? Federer might be able to compete at his favorite site, but whether he still has what it takes to make it all the way to the finals is another story. And it's not a very happy one for Federer.