2013 has been a year unlike any other for one of tennis' all-time greats, as Roger Federer simply can't win. That seems like a statement that we'd never echo, but to date, Federer has been close to dreadful by his own unparalleled standards.
For Federer, the 2013 U.S. Open will serve as the final chance for the all-time great to remain elite.
Federer is currently 32-11, owning one singles title and experiencing some of the earliest exits of his illustrious career. That may not sound bad, but Federer lost 12 matches in 2012 to 71 victories.
In turn, he's hit his lowest point in more than 10 years.
A shocking development.
From 2003 to 2010, Federer won 16 Grand Slam events, winning multiple titles in five of those eight years. Since the 2010 Australian Open, however, Federer has won just one Grand Slam and made two finals appearances in 14 tournaments.
Federer had made 22 finals appearances in his previous 27 attempts.
Admittedly, it's difficult to tear away Federer's label of elite after reaching at least the quarterfinals in 13 of the past 14 Grand Slam events. With that being said, Federer has lost before the quarterfinals in two of his previous four outings.
That includes a second-round loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon and Daniel Brands at the Suisse Open.
The only title that Federer has won this year came at the ATP Gerry Weber Open, where Federer dropped two sets and the only ranked player he faced was No. 13 Tommy Haas. Other than that tournament, Federer has posted a win percentage of 71.7, which is impressive, but lies nearly 10 percent under his career mark.
And that's where the problem lies.
By general standards, Federer remains an elite competitor, defeating lesser opponents at virtually every turn. Unfortunately, the world elite is now reserved for the three men who have ruled over tennis with Federer.
Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.
Against Murray and Nadal, Federer is 0-4 during the 2013 season, going 0-3 against the Spaniard and losing two straight-set matches. In the first two clashes, it was lopsided and provided us with one critical truth.
As Murray and Djokovic play at a strong level, Federer is on the decline and Nadal is dominating in an unmatched manner.
Nadal is currently 53-3 with nine singles titles, which is more than Djokovic, Federer and Murray have won combined. Not only has Nadal thrived on clay, but he's gone undefeated during the hard court season.
This rise couldn't come at a worse time for Federer.
As Nadal returns to good health, Djokovic remains the world's No. 1 and Murray enters the realm of multiple Grand Slam titles run, Federer can't seem to buy a string of victories. While Federer may remain the best of his generation, it appears as if the 32-year-old is past his prime.
The U.S. Open will serve as the final opportunity for Federer to remain within the ranks of today's elite.