Roger Federer was defeated in the first match at the Swiss Open, losing to Daniel Brands 6-3, 6-4. It’s his third loss to a low-ranked opponent since his ouster at Wimbledon and brings up greater concerns as he heads to Montreal, Canada for the Rogers Cup.
The difficulties for Federer have been highlighted by media members as losses to unimpressive players have become more common.
What do the grandchildren of Stakhovsky, Delbonis, and now Daniel (off) Brands now have in common?— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) July 25, 2013
The losses most illustrate that Federer is having difficulties finding his form. He needed a few more matches at Gstaad, but will have to settle for extended rest before packing his bags for Canada.
His first big concern is becoming healthy. Federer has been laboring with his serve. He has struggled to dictate his offense, and is rarely able to unleash his great forehand. Though his matches the past week have been on clay, it’s clear that he has continued to suffer on some level from the back pains that sidelined him for much of March and April during the clay court season.
Federer’s post match comments with the media, via AFP, confirmed the worst:
I've had serious problems with the back, I had to get some anti-inflammatories last week in Hamburg due to the back pain.
It was so tough to play and move out there today. I'll just have to take treatment and see how it all goes.
Will Federer be healthy enough to participate at the Masters 1000 hard court tournaments at Montreal and Cincinnati? The weather just became gloomier for his prospects.
Federer was also seeking more time with his new, bigger racket, sized at 98” rather than the 90” racket he has used for many years. It’s the kind of change that needed more matches to test drive.
Will he have the necessary time and matches on hard courts to make a run at the US Open title? Federer fans might be worried, according to Brad Gilbert’s tweet:
Fedfan after a routine loss to Name Brands will he shelve the new Stick before he heads to Canada ?— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) July 25, 2013
In addition, Federer has been seeking to improve his overall timing and conditioning. More time off will not allow him to knock off the rust and play with well-oiled smoothness. He has always been a player with a rhythm of footwork, offensive creativity and aggression. Can he coordinate these abilities into playing championship tennis once again?
For Federer and his team, it will require a physical toll at practice and in matches to compete with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. How much has Federer endured in the past few weeks in trying to return to Hamburg and Gstaad?
It’s also mentally frustrating for top champions to fall short of their expectations as they battle through injuries. How can Federer keep his confidence and morale high enough to battle back when his body is breaking down? It’s a powerless feeling.
Ultimately, Federer would love to make one more run at winning the US Open. Here is the uphill list of challenges he faces:
- He must overcome back problems and nagging injuries.
- He must find tennis conditioning and timing with his body
- He needs more matches, especially with his new racket.
- He must dictate with his serve, forehand and offensive tempo.
- He needs fresh legs and footwork for his total tennis
- He needs to remain optimistic and confident in his abilities.
- He must show lesser players he can play like the Federer of 2012.
Whether or not Federer can arrive as a US Open contender with just one month of work is now the task at hand. It will be one of the great challenges of his career, the kind of purgatory he must endure if he is to have a chance at one more Grand Slam title.
If his injuries continue to mount, he may be better off following Rafael Nadal's model to take several months off from tennis and rehabilitate. It would give him more time with his racket and allow him to heal up for one last great run in 2014.
This is a critical time for the Swiss Maestro.