But perhaps there's a reason for it—beyond the emergence of Andy Murray. Perhaps the pace of these long tournaments—and the toll they take physically—has finally caught up to the game's top stars, all at the same time.
Roger Federer, this year's Wimbledon champ, made headlines this week when he complained that he's exhausted and needs a break from tennis. He told EuroSport.com:
I need a holiday badly. I'm wounded, tired, and exhausted and need some time off right now and see where I go from here. Nothing has been decided for the rest of year, even though there is a plan in place, that plan might change. I need to go back to drawing board to see what's important.
Those certainly aren't the words of someone who feels either mentally or physically prepared to endure the remaining grind of the season. It's rare that you find an athlete speak so candidly about the exhaustion that comes part and parcel with a seemingly never-ending season. You don't hear it from NBA stars, or NFL stars (unless the owners are threatening to extend the regular season).
That tells us all something about just how bad Federer is feeling right now.
In light of these comments, which Federer made after helping Switzerland defeat the Netherlands in the Davis Cup playoffs, it's not too difficult to see why the world No. 1 suffered an upset loss in the U.S. Open quarterfinals earlier this month.
It's also not difficult to understand how he fell—and didn't even seem to put up a fight—against Murray in the gold-medal match at the Olympics.
When you're a Federer, or a Djokovic, or a Nadal, and the expectation is that you're going to make it to the semifinals and the finals in nearly every event on your schedule, it wears on you—especially this season, when the Olympics were added to the grueling three-and-a-half-month stretch in between the French Open and the U.S. Open.
It's easy to see why someone like Federer—elite athlete as he may be—feels physically and mentally defeated after making it to the semifinal, semifinal, final, final and quarterfinal in his last five major events.
Perhaps it was that epic, four-hour and 26-minute Olympic semifinal match against Juan Martin Del Potro that officially did him in. He certainly hasn't been the same since. The moment that match ended may have been the moment the wind officially went out of Federer's sails.
Fox Sports' Richard Evans used Djokovic as an example of someone who spent an insane amount of time on the court en route to his most recent Grand Slam—this year's Australian Open. According to Evans, Djokovic's final two matches took 10 hours and three minutes.
Federer—who is about six years older than Djokovic, at 31—had a similarly grueling journey to the Wimbledon final and the Olympic final. It wears you down after a while, especially when you've been a pro since 1998.
Is this something that's going to have a long-lasting effect on Federer? Is this going to jeopardize his ability to compete in 2013? Hopefully not. Hopefully, he'll rediscover the vigor and the passion he so clearly needs before it comes time to compete for his next Grand Slam in January.
Or maybe the wear and tear of his 2012 resurgence is finally taking a toll on him, once and for all.
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