Roger Federer’s second-round exit at Wimbledon this year should be a wakeup call as to what his future may hold.
Federer is easily one of the best tennis players to ever take the court. He has 17 career Grand Slam titles, which is three more than anyone else and five more than the closest active player, Rafael Nadal. The problem for Federer, however, is that his glory days are well in the past, and his legacy could start to take a hit.
Federer was in his prime during the mid-2000s. From 2003 through 2009, Federer won 15 Grand Slam titles, including six at Wimbledon. Federer has only won two Grand Slams since, though. He has made it to the semifinals in seven of the last 11 major tournaments but has advanced to the final just twice.
There’s no question that Federer is still a part of the top four players who continue to dominate the sport—the group also including Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Nadal. But Federer has continued to come up short in recent memory, and nothing stands out more than his embarrassing loss at Wimbledon this year.
Wimbledon is Federer’s Grand Slam to lose. He’s arguably the top grass player of ever, as he’s won tons of tournaments on the surface and is tied for the most all-time championship wins at Wimbledon with William Renshaw and Pete Sampras with seven. So, how in the world did Federer lose to Sergiy Stakhovsky?
While there were plenty of upsets are All England Club the last few weeks, Federer’s was easily the most surprising. He took the opening set and then went on to drop the next three to get eliminated in the second round. It was the earliest exit at Wimbledon for Federer since 2002.
It wasn't the first time Federer lost to a player outside the top 100 either, as shown by ESPN Stats & Info:
One must wonder if Federer can’t even make it to third round at All England Club—albeit it may just be a fluke—how will he ever win another Grand Slam? I mentioned that he’s still in the top four in the world, but he is definitely the fourth guy at this point.
Djokovic, Murray and Nadal are still all in their primes. Federer, though, is 31 years old and on the decline. It seems highly unlikely that he’d be able to go on another run of dominance where he strings together a couple of major victories. There’s no question that he’s toward the end of his career.
Federer is currently in a situation where he’s still good enough to be competing, but he isn’t going to enough to be winning anything of note. He’s lost six of his last eight matches against Nadal. He’s dropped four of his last six matches against Djokovic. He’s also lost three of his last four to Murray.
Those three have each won a Grand Slam in 2013, and each had one last year as well. Many will be watching Federer at the upcoming U.S. Open to see if he can win one this year. How far he advances through the final Grand Slam of the year will say a lot about his future.
If Federer cannot make a deep run, it’s only going to be more apparent that he needs to retire his racket. Federer cannot afford another early exit from a Grand Slam. Not making it to the fourth round at the very least would be a monumental disappointment. He needs the title more than anyone else.
Right now, Federer needs to focus on doing everything in his power to have a strong showing in New York in August, as time is running out for one of the best ever. It remains to be seen when he’ll actually retire, but he has to be considering it now.
Federer may not realize it now, but he may not end up leaving the legacy he wants if he continues to try to win another Grand Slam.