At the age of 30, Roger Federer is still playing the sport of tennis at a supremely high level. His consistent victories in recent years over some of the bigger hitters in the game (Tsonga, Berdych, Del Potro, Soderling) have shown his ability to adapt even as he approaches the end of what must be regarded as the greatest career in the history of men's tennis. Those same players were causing some discomfort to Federer's style of play just a few years ago.
His defeat at the hands of Del Potro in the 2009 final of the US Open, then losses to Soderling at the 2010 French Open, Berdych at Wimbledon 2010 and Tsonga last year at Wimbledon all had one thing in common; Federer was being bullied and out-muscled by his bigger, stronger opponents. Since then, Federer has been virtually invincible against them, as well as the talented up-and-comer, Milos Raonic—another player capable of bludgeoning the ball.
His year-to-date record of 39-6 with four titles only emphasizes Federer's consistency and remarkable fitness. He remains one of the top contenders at any event he enters. Back-to-back semifinal appearances at the Australian Open and French Open this year were solid, if unspectacular, but now, more so than ever, Federer needs an element of luck to kick in if he is to break a Grand Slam drought that is over two years long.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are undoubtedly Federer's main rivals, and the ones most likely to stand in the way of him winning a 17th Grand Slam title. For Federer to defeat them, he will have to do so in the semis and finals of Wimbledon, which will require a herculean effort on his part. This is by no means an impossible proposition, as Federer will be on the surface that has brought him his greatest and most memorable conquests.
By his own admission, Federer expects to play for a few more years, but if he is unable to win a Grand Slam title this year, it may be hard to factor him in to the conversation looking forward to 2013. One can only hope that Federer retires with the same grace, dignity and style that has epitomized his career. No Federer supporter, or tennis fan for that matter, wants to see Federer being granted a wild card into any tournament.
With no one seriously challenging his No. 3 ranking in the world, and Federer still within striking distance of being number one yet again, he has the incentive and motivation to carry on. Wimbledon and the Olympics are his main priorities at the moment. After that, it may be time to reassess, for simply being No. 3 in the world and no longer in the winner's circle at the majors must prove frustrating for the great man.
In a "what have you done for me lately" world, certain esteemed analysts are questioning whether Federer is in fact the greatest of all time. Even with all of Federer's accolades, accomplishments, record-breaking 16 Grand Slam titles and essentially holding just about every major individual record, for some, it still isn't enough.