A two-month layoff from tennis would spell disaster for most players in search of a French Open title. For Roger Federer, taking two months off will be exactly what he needs to erase a slow start to the 2013 season and return to dominance amidst the rest of the Big Four at Roland Garros.
At 31, questions continue to arise as to Federer’s form in recent years. With only two grand slam victories in the last two-plus years (yes, only), some have begun to wonder how much longer FedEx can remain competitive with the likes of Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
In all reality, Federer’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. He may not be the player he was in his prime, but the 31-year-old has plenty left in the tank, and he’ll prove it at the French Open in late May.
The No. 2 player in the world spent the last two months repairing and recovering and taking some time off for himself. While a back injury slowed him at Indian Wells in March, his respite seems to have been more a result of FedEx wanting to unwind and prepare for a stretch run this season (via Madrid-Open.com):
Just been home and practicing hard as I was hoping to. I feel good now. It took me a little time to get over my back issue from Indian Wells. But at the same time, that collided with my vacation anyway. I am entering all the tournaments from here through to the US Open, so it’s going to be a long stretch. You want to be ready for it. I’m very excited, which is a good thing.
He should be excited. He’ll make his return at the Madrid Open Tuesday—a good opportunity for the world’s No. 2 player to fine tune his game and potentially face off with Nadal, Djokovic or Murray before the French Open in less than three weeks.
Nadal is easily the biggest mark among the group, though, and Federer may hope for a showdown with the 26-year-old prior to Roland Garros to test his skills against the “King of Clay” on a surface that hasn’t been as kind to Federer as other playing surfaces.
If FedEx can make his mark at Madrid against Nadal (or even Djokovic), his confidence should be extremely high heading into the French Open.
Of course, fresh legs cannot hurt his cause, either.
Federer has been training during his time off, but he likely hasn’t overexerted himself in the process. With time away from competitive tennis to mend, there’s little doubt we will see a rejuvenated FedEx at both Madrid and Roland Garros.
With just one French Open win to his name, the 31-year-old certainly isn’t the favorite to triumph at Roland Garros this year, but that doesn’t mean he won’t look impressive enough to warrant an ease in the hype machine that has exaggerated his decline in recent years. He’s still one of the best players on the planet.
We may not see Federer triumph at the French Open this year, but it wouldn’t be from a decline in talent. If he can manage to at least reach the finals (and do so in a competitive fashion), there will be no reason to doubt that he can still compete with the young guns of the sport.