It's been a decade since a men's tennis player over the age of 30 has won or even reached the final of the Australian Open, and that doesn't bode well for 31-year-old Roger Federer's chances down under this January.
A 17-time Grand Slam champion (which includes four Aussie Open titles), Fed-Ex is arguably the greatest player to have ever held a racquet. Unfortunately, his decade of dominance will rear its ugly head in Melbourne in 2013, making Federer a lock to miss the Australian Open final this year, for the third straight time.
For the record, Andre Agassi in 2003, at the age of 32, was the last man over age 30 to reach and win the Australian Open final.
A couple of years ago it would have been unimaginable to foresee Federer bowing out before the final, but now it seems inevitable. With the emergence of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the era of Fed's dominance is all but over.
Federer reached the Aussie Open final five times over a seven-year span of 2004 to 2010, but has lost in the semifinals in each of the past two years.
Djokovic has won the last two Grand Slams down under, defeating Murray in 2011 and Rafael Nadal in 2012. Both runners-up were in their mid-20s at the time, not their early 30s.
While Djokovic and Murray reach the peaks of their athletic careers, Federer is no doubt on the decline by tennis standards.
Let's face it, tennis is a young men's game. Sure, Federer experienced a breakthrough at Wimbledon last summer, winning at the All England Club for the seventh time in his career and the first time as a 30-year-old. But that was following a more than two-year Slam title drought.
Since turning 30 in August 2011, Federer is just one-for-five in Grand Slams, and has made only one Slam final (2012 Wimbledon). In three of those majors he reached the semis before exiting, but in the most recent, the 2012 U.S. Open, Federer lost in the quarterfinals. The loss was his earliest at Flushing Meadows since the 2003 U.S. Open.
It isn't disrespectful to acknowledge that Federer's best days are behind him, it's a fact.
That's not to say that Federer won't make another deep run in Melbourne as he has in every Australian Open since 2004, but to anticipate Fed-Ex reaching the men's final this January would be unrealistic.
It's been three years since a 28-year-old Federer graced the Australian Open final, and consider this alarming statistic: Fed has made just two of the last 11 Slam finals since winning the Aussie Open in 2010.
Roger Federer is the greatest champion men's tennis has ever seen, but age, which once worked in his favor by providing invaluable experience in key moments, is now against him.
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