Roger Federer is unquestionably one of the greatest tennis players of all time. The Swiss superstar has gradually declined in recent years, however, and things won't get much better at the 2014 Australian Open.
It wouldn't be fair to say that Federer is done at the age of 32, but he may be done in terms of winning Grand Slams. In other eras, Federer's current play might be good enough to be the top guy, but with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray posing stiff challenges in every major tournament, Federer simply doesn't have any breathing room.
Talk of Federer's demise cropped up in 2010 and 2011 when he experienced the first true major drought of his career, but he managed to quell the situation by capturing the 2012 Wimbledon crown. Federer has experienced a dry spell since then, though, and he hasn't even come close in most of the Grand Slams he has entered.
Last year was a particularly trying one for Federer, and it can be argued that it was the worst of his career. Fed won just a single tournament, and he was ousted by the likes of Tommy Robredo and Sergiy Stakhovsky in the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, respectively.
Federer had hoped to get his 2014 season off to a much better start, but it instead began with disappointment. Federer reached the Brisbane International final as he tuned up for the Australian Open, but it wasn't easy. Jeremy Chardy took Federer to a decisive third set in the semifinals before Federer was ultimately stopped by Lleyton Hewitt, according to SuperSport.
Federer battled back in that match after losing the first set 6-1, but he was ultimately unable to overcome the Aussie favorite in front of his home fans. There is no shame in losing to a seasoned veteran like Hewitt, but Grand Slam title contenders find a way to win that match.
Despite Federer's recent struggles, he is seemingly confident in his ability to vie for the Aussie Open crown. According to ATPWorldTour.com, Federer intends to be aggressive in Melbourne.
"I'm very hungry and eager to attack. I'm not thinking too far ahead. I'm not thinking short term. I'm definitely going there to hopefully be there for a long time and putting myself in a good position," Federer said.
Also, despite all of the struggles that Federer has experienced over the past year in big tournaments, he seems encouraged by the adjustments that he has made as well as the amount of work that he has gotten in.
I'm looking back now, the last three, four months it's been very positive going through Basel, Paris, and London. All three weeks in a row where I played a lot of matches, a lot of three setters as well. I went through all of December and probably practiced more than all the guys ranked ahead of me because they were playing exhibitions and all that stuff. I did that for a full month, a lot of training, and now here I had another busy week and I'm actually holding up very good. So that's a good sign moving into 2014.
It's encouraging to see that Federer's confidence hasn't wavered despite his recent lack of success, but that alone won't be enough to get him out of his funk. With Nadal, Djokovic and Murray all seemingly healthy and in fine form, as well as strong secondary contenders like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer present, Federer has his work cut out for him.
For as great as Federer has been over the course of his career, his collective record against the top three players is dismal. Federer has losing marks against Nadal and Murray, and he is just one win above .500 against Djokovic, as seen in this table:
|Federer's Career Record vs. Top Players|
Federer's record against Djokovic is also padded by wins against Djokovic before he truly turned the corner. Djoker has taken each of the past three meetings.
The unfortunate thing for Federer is that he can play fantastic tennis in Melbourne but still fall short due to the level of competition. So many things have to go right for Federer to win the Australian Open or even reach the semifinals, and it simply isn't in the cards right now.
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