Roger Federer isn’t catching Jimmy Connors at this rate.
Federer tied John McEnroe at 77 for the third-most singles titles of all time with his one tournament victory in 2013, but is 32 behind leader Connors.
Federer already has the most Grand Slam men’s singles titles ever. With Connors out of reach, he can’t add much more to his legendary legacy. Therefore, if he fails to bounce back next season, he should hang up his tennis racket.
“I still have plans to play for many more years to come,” Federer told reporters after his shocking second-round letdown to Sergiy Stakhovsky in this past Wimbledon, according to Michael Steinberger of the New York Times.
Federer’s fourth-round exit to Tommy Robredo in the U.S. Open weeks later likely didn’t help cement this claim in the mind of the Swiss star.
In 2003, Federer started an eight-year streak in which he won at least one Grand Slam per season. He’s now won just one in the past three years. In fact, he not only didn’t win a Grand Slam this season, but it marked the first time since 2001 that Federer failed to win multiple ATP tournaments.
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, Federer’s greatest rivals and typically his greatest obstacles, weren’t even obstacles in 2013. Stakhovsky, Robredo, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga eliminated him before he could even reach Nadal and Djokovic in Grand Slam competition.
Federer turned 32 years old in August. As well as a back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Montreal Masters, according to Eleanor Crooks of the Daily Mail, age has seen this season turn into the worst of his career.
The nightmare of a year shouldn’t lead him to consider retirement just yet, however. He’s rebounded from disappointing slumps before. Federer went on a streak of nine Grand Slam tournaments without a victory from the 2010 Australian Open to Wimbledon 2012—the longest of his career since he won his first—but that didn’t stop him from defeating Andy Murray in four sets in the final. The Scot would go on to win a gold medal on the same court weeks later.
Whether or not Federer has truly fallen from tennis’ elite won’t be revealed until his back heals. If he can’t compete with the game’s greatest players at full strength—or even get healthy—in 2014, he would be wise to retire.
David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor of Wade-O Radio.