Why Roger Federer Could Be Facing Early Exit at French Open

Joshua AxelrodCorrespondent IMay 20, 2013

This might not be Federer's year at Roland Garros.
This might not be Federer's year at Roland Garros.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The French Open may not be kind to Roger Federer, who has gotten off to a slow start in 2013.

The Swiss superstar has never begun a season this sluggishly. He has only made one final so far, which was at last week’s Rome Masters. Rafael Nadal crushed Federer, winning 6-1, 6-3.

“It was surprising,” Nadal told The Guardian. “I cannot expect to win against Roger 6-1, 6-3.”

Nadal seemed genuinely shocked at how ineffective Federer was in that match. Unfortunately, that might be a sign of things to come at Roland Garros on Sunday.

Federer, who turns 32 in August, might finally be entering the downswing of his illustrious career. He will probably stay competitive, but he may no longer be racking up wins as easily as he did in his prime.

The man has earned 17 Grand Slam titles since joining the circuit in 2001. He currently sits at third on the ATP World Tour rankings behind Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. He certainly is not going anywhere anytime soon.

But a victory at the French Open seems out of Federer’s grasp. With Nadal healthy and feeling confident, Djokovic coming off three titles this year and age catching up to him, do not be surprised to see Federer being bounced early at Roland Garros.

Even if Federer was at the top of his game, Nadal’s dominance on clay is unparalleled. He is 31-2 on clay this year, with 41 career titles won on clay courts and a career winning percentage of .931 on that surface.

Federer is no slouch on clay, but his numbers on the surface are not nearly as awesome as Nadal’s. He has won 10 career titles on clay with a career winning percentage of .769. Not bad, but nowhere near Nadal’s level of clay supremacy.

To be fair, Federer did win the French Open in 2009. Nadal proceeded to own Roland Garros for the three years following Federer's win there (he has won the French Open seven times).

It seems like those two are the guys to watch going into Sunday’s action. Who knows? Maybe Federer will find a fountain of youth and get back on track.

More likely than not, though, the 2013 French Open might cement the transition from the epic Federer vs. Nadal rivalry to Nadal vs. Djokovic. Look out for an unofficial passing of the tennis torch.