There’s still a lot of tennis to be played at the 2013 U.S. Open, but Roger Federer’s days are numbered as he eyes a potential quarterfinal duel against red-hot Rafael Nadal.
Federer is fighting for a shot at regaining hold of a career that is slowly slipping away from him. To win another Grand Slam would be a dramatic encore to an already legendary career. A triumph in New York would echo a previous late-career performance by Pete Sampras—who won the U.S. Open at age 31 after seemingly falling off the map in the twilight of his career.
But in order to complete the storybook ending, Federer will eventually have to face off against Nadal in a quarterfinal showdown. That’s where the compelling journey will unfortunately come to a screeching and disappointing halt for Fed. As great as it would be to see another similar sendoff for a tennis great, Nadal is simply playing at too high of a level to allow it.
The Spaniard has been dominant against Federer this year, dropping only one set to his Swiss rival. He’s been just as good against everyone else, too, boasting a 54-3 record after his opening-round win against Ryan Harrison.
While the two have never met at the U.S. Open, Rafa has a 7-6 record against him on hard courts. Nadal also holds a 21-10 career advantage heading into their potential rendezvous next week.
You can’t discount Federer’s accomplishments, but there’s no taking away from the mastery Nadal has found against the 17-time Grand Slam winner. Federer was great—perhaps the very best—during the peak of his career. That was then, though; this is now.
Counting him out of anything doesn’t feel right, but it’s a harsh reality.
This season has been one disappointment after another for the 32-year-old. He’s only won one title in 2013, the lowest amount since he captured just three in 2001. While his .744 winning percentage doesn’t sound bad for an average player, Federer has been anything but average during his career.
It’s a noticeable decline that has been marred by losses to low-ranked opponents. Wimbledon used to be his tournament. Well, that was far from the case for him this year. Sergiy Stakhovsky, the 116th-ranked player in the world at the time, knocked him out of contention in just the second round. He followed that up by dropping an opening-round Swiss Open match against No. 55-ranked Daniel Brands.
There’s still fight in him, so anything is possible. But with the current contrasts in their games, the most likely result is disappointment for Federer and continued success for Nadal in New York.