Roger Federer has endured—by his own impeccable standards—what has to be described as a disappointing start to 2009.
The former world No. 1 has lost five matches so far this year and hasn't won a tournament since October of last year.
While Federer has struggled to be competitive in the Masters 1000 events (the Swiss maestro hasn't won any such titles since Cincinnati in August 2007), there is no doubt that in the majors for the last couple of years Federer has been second only to one man, current world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
Nadal has been Federer's nemesis on the red clay for a considerable period. Indeed, the Spaniard has won nine of 10 matches against Federer on that surface. Three of those nine victories came in the final of the Roland Garros.
Nadal may have been unstoppable on the clay, but until recently Federer was still the man to beat on hard court and grass. In 2006 and 2007, Federer managed to win three out of the four majors, only losing out to Nadal at the French Open.
As Nadal adapted his game to quicker surfaces, he improved his odds of upstaging Federer at a Grand Slam other than the French.
This finally came true at Wimbledon in 2008, when Nadal defeated Federer in an epic five-set encounter. In the process, Nadal thwarted Federer's bid to win a sixth successive Wimbledon title. Nadal had come close at Wimbledon the previous two years, losing out narrowly to Federer in the final on both occasions.
Nadal backed up his Wimbledon triumph with a win at the Australian Open this year, once again defeating Federer in a grueling five-setter. The defeat left Federer very emotional and needing one more Grand Slam title to equal Pete Sampras' record 14.
Even though Federer currently holds only one Grand Slam, the U.S. Open, it should be remembered that he has reached the final of the other three majors the last time he has competed in all of them, only losing out to Nadal—far and away the best player in the world on all surfaces.
Aside from Nadal, Federer's only other loss in a major in the last four years was to world No. 3 Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semis last year.
Murray Poses No Real Threat, Yet
Given these statistics, I find it quite surprising when people say that Andy Murray is a threat to Roger Federer winning another major. The great man may have struggled in the Masters, but the reality is that only Nadal has had the skill, tenacity, and ability to beat Federer in the majors.
A lot is made about Murray's 6-2 record against Federer. While there is no denying that these are great numbers, they need to be put into perspective: Murray has never beaten Federer in a major.
Their one meeting in a Grand Slam was at the U.S. Open final last year, and Federer won it easily 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.
I am sure Murray would swap any of his six wins against Federer for one in a major, particularly that meeting in U.S. Open final.
There is no doubt Murray has shown clear signs of improvement and is right up there with the best in the world. The reality is until Murray or anybody else apart from Nadal defeats Federer in a major, he shouldn't be thought to threaten Federer's chances of adding to his Grand Slam tally.