Roger Federer's Aura Officially Gone After 2013 US Open Loss to Tommy Robredo
Roger Federer used to win matches just by being Roger Federer.
Sure, he was great at tennis—one of the best, if not the best, to ever play the game—but he also had an aura of invincibility around him that intimidated most players out of their games before they even got on the court.
I think it's safe to say, after his shocking straight-sets loss to Tommy Robredo in the fourth round of the U.S. Open on Monday, that the aura is officially gone.
This loss—which made sure that there is no possibility for a Federer vs. Rafael Nadal match at the U.S. Open—puts an end to the worst Grand Slam season for Federer since 2002.
Roger Federer fails to reach a Grand Slam final in a single year for the first time since 2002.— Josh (@TheSixthSet) September 3, 2013
Robredo is a 31-year-old Spaniard who came onto the tour in 1998, the same year as Federer. The two know each other well, as they had met 10 times prior to Monday night. Federer won all 10 of those matches, dating back to 2002. In fact, Robredo had only won three sets total in his career versus Fed.
Mind you, Robredo is no slouch. He's been ranked as high as No. 5 in the world and has currently climbed back up to No. 22 after a comeback from an injury that kept him off the tour for over a year. But no matter how high he was ranked or what surface they were playing on, he just couldn't threaten Federer in the past.
This time was different.
This time, there was no David versus Goliath dynamic. There were two players, both past their prime, just trying to make a Grand Slam quarterfinal.
This time, Federer's normally reliable forehand couldn't find the court. All Robredo had to do was keep the ball in play and wait for one of Federer's 43 unforced errors. It was Robredo who was the better man on the bigger points—the Spaniard was 4-of-7 on break points, while his legendary opponent was a mere 2-of-16.
"I kind of feel like I beat myself, without taking any credit away from Tommy." -Roger Federer in press. #USOpen— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) September 3, 2013
It's not like Federer's halo went away overnight. It's been a slow and inevitable decline, one that happens to everyone with age, but it's tough to watch the 17-time Grand Slam champion's fall from top form.
In 2012, Federer came into the U.S. Open ranked No. 1, having just won Wimbledon and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
This year, Federer has only won one title, he had his phenomenal nine-year Grand Slam quarterfinal streak broken by Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round at Wimbledon and he's lost to three players outside the Top 50 this summer.
Federer: "It's been a difficult last three months and maybe my consistency hasn't been there on a daily basis." #usopen— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) September 3, 2013
He's clearly not the player he once was.
However, Federer did show signs of improvement in the Western & Southern Open last month, taking a set off of Nadal, and he looked like his old self in the first three rounds of the tournament, dismissing Grega Zemlja, Carlos Berlocq and Adrian Mannarino in straight sets.
But those players aren't nearly as accomplished as Robredo is, and Robredo—having seen Federer struggle with his game throughout the year—had to go into the match knowing that this was a golden opportunity to finally get revenge on his old nemesis.
Time is a cruel thing. It gives some players, such as Robredo, a chance to make up for lost opportunities. For others, like Federer, it catches up to them and brings them back down to earth.
This loss leaves a lot of uncomfortable questions for Federer hanging in the air.
He's certainly earned the right to be out there for as long as he wants.
But if he's going to win again, he's going to have to do it without his legendary aura by his side. Because, after losses like this one, that's long gone.
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