Those expecting Roger Federer to expand his record-setting Grand Slam trophy case with his 18th title will be disappointed. There are simply too many factors holding him back from winning the Australian Open.
Federer came into the tournament as one of the favorites to make a run to the finals. That's well warranted. He's the No. 2 seed and has gotten off to a hot start, advancing to the third round.
However, Federer's advancement to the third round was a formality. As he attempts to make another magical run through the first Grand Slam of 2013, things will get increasingly difficult, and the deck is stacked against him.
In 2012, Federer shocked the sporting world when he won Wimbledon at the age of 30. It was the first time that someone 30 or older had won a major since Andre Agassi won the Australian Open in 2003.
While Federer's accomplishment was certainly memorable, it's difficult for someone to continually win Grand Slams at his age. His Wimbledon victory is his only Grand Slam title in the last two years. In that span, he has only reached a final one other time (French Open 2011).
Federer is still an elite player, capable of beating anyone on any given day, but he's no longer a lock to cruise into the final each tournament.
Rough Road Ahead
The biggest question surrounding the 31-year-old Federer is whether he can survive the attrition that he will have to endure once things start to heat up.
Federer breezed through the first two rounds, defeating Benoit Paire and Nikolay Davydenko without even dropping a set. However, the degree of difficulty should pick up from Round 3 on.
Federer's Round 3 opponent, 20-year-old Bernard Tomic, is the lone Australian remaining in the draw. He presents a strong power game that has the potential to send Federer flying around the court, trying to track shots down. With the home crowd behind Tomic, it will be no easy task for Federer to come out on top.
After Tomic, the draw doesn't get any easier. The remaining players whom he would face would likely all be ranked in the Top 20, including Andy Murray, whom he could meet in the semifinals.
The Play of Novak Djokovic
When it comes down to it, there's a reason that Federer is No. 2 and not No. 1—Novak Djokovic is playing better than anybody in the world right now.
If Federer is able to battle through to the final, it's a safe bet that Djokovic will be there waiting for him. Once there, his odds aren't good—Melbourne has been a second home for the Serbian.
Djoker's five career Grand Slams don't compare to Federer's 17, but three of the five have come at the Australian Open, and he's the back-to-back champion. It would take a massive upset in the final for the aging Federer to best a prime Djokovic.