After 17 Grand Slam titles and a 15-year career that may never be matched, Roger Federer knows what he has to do to prolong his success at the highest level of the sport. Unfortunately, that endeavor might have to entail taking a little extra time off between major tournaments.
At 31, many expected Federer to show a slight decline entering this season. He was already in the throes of a minor Grand Slam drought, having secured just one major title since the middle of 2010, and the brilliance of his dominance seems to have lost some luster in the years since.
Federer is still a world-class player with the skill, athleticism and power to win more major titles. He just doesn’t have the youthful exuberance or resilient body to do so, on top of a full tournament slate.
The world No. 5 has fallen out of the top four in the ATP rankings for the first time since 2003, when he won his first Grand Slam title, and he did so following a two-month layoff to prepare for the year’s biggest tournaments. Since his return, Fed-Ex was bounced short of the finals at both the French Open and Wimbledon, his last three losses coming at the hands of players ranked outside the top 50 in the ATP rankings.
Federer’s decline isn’t a surprise given his age and incredible mileage in professional tournaments, and despite his recent lack of success, he still has enough left in the tank to make a splash in future Grand Slam events. It’s just going to take a little more caution to see to it that Fed-Ex can continue adding to his Grand Slam record.
While Federer is likely experiencing the normal effects of wear and tear at this point in his career, he’s also struggling with a back injury that limited his effectiveness in Gstaad last week, losing to the heavy-hitting Daniel Brands in his opening match.
As quoted by Federer Live, the 31-year-old discussed his back issues following that match and touched on the realities of his 2013 season:
Federer: "I took a lot of anti inflammatories last week. Not this week. It's a muscular spasm in the back. I'm just happy to have played."— Roger Federer (@FedererLive) July 25, 2013
How many Grand Slam titles do you think Federer will add to his resume before he retires?
“Tricky” is perhaps the most appropriate word to describe his season to this point. Federer has shown flashes of his typical dominance in several events this year, but he’s been unable to put it all together in any given tournament. Whether a slow start or an anticlimactic finish, Federer has failed to get it done on a consistent basis.
Again, there’s no reason to worry that Federer doesn’t have enough in the tank to continue building on his Grand Slam success. At his age, the rigors of a full tournament slate are enough to make winning week in and week out a near impossibility.
But if Federer hopes to prolong his career and continue making a splash in tennis’ biggest events, he needs to focus on getting healthy, resting up and perhaps taking off a few extra tournaments to better prepare for the strain of making a deep run in especially meaningful competition.