Three years after winning the Australian Open for a fourth career time, Roger Federer is set to begin a disappointing trend at the year's first Slam.
The greatest tennis player of all time, winner of 17 Grand Slams in all, Fed has accomplished nearly everything there is to accomplish in the sport. But at age 31, the Swiss star looks to have seen his best days at Melbourne Park.
Fed, the men's No. 2 seed in 2013, has bowed out at the semifinal stage of the past two Aussie Opens, losing in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in the 2011 semis and in four sets to Rafael Nadal in the 2012 semis. In 2013, it won't be Djokovic or Nadal who sends the legend home, but the last of the men's Big Four, Andy Murray.
The last time the 25-year-old Scotsman faced Fed in the Australian Open was in the 2010 men's final, which Federer won in straight sets. But 36 months later, Fed is three years older and in his early 30s while Murray is three years wiser and entering his mid 20s.
Oh yeah, and since that straight-set win over Murray in 2010, Fed has won just one major tournament in 11 tries.
Will Fed make the men's final Down Under?
Meanwhile, Murray is coming off the first Slam title of his career, winning the 2012 U.S. Open last September. No player, other than Djokovic (who has won the past two Australian Open championships), is playing with more confidence right now than Murray, who some would argue is the man to beat having conquered the most recent Slam event on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows.
It's been a decade since a men's player Fed's age or above has gotten past the semis in Melbourne. Andre Agassi was the last to do it in 2003, winning the Australian Open at the age of 32.
More so than ever before, tennis today is a young man's game, especially on the hard courts. With that in mind, fans shouldn't expect Fed to get by Murray and play for his fifth career Aussie Open title in the men's final this January.
In Roger Federer's case, two straight semifinal failures is a coincidence, but a third in 2013 will signal a disappointing trend.
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