Jaded Roger Federer Slams Down to Earth, Possibly to No. 2

Andrew BarrySenior Analyst IAugust 1, 2008

When Roger Federer's five-year Wimbledon reign was ended by Rafael Nadal last month, tennis pundits began speculating whether his No. 1 ranking would be next to go.

Some said Federer would hang on until the end of the year. Others thought he might be toppled at the US Open. But no one, at that stage, seriously suggested Nadal could become world No. 1 within a month.

This Sunday, however, just four weeks after his epic victory in near darkness at SW19, the remarkable Spaniard could bring an end to Federer's 235-week vigil at the top of his sport by winning the Cincinnati Masters.

With Nadal safely into quarter-finals following a 6-4, 7-6 win over Tommy Haas, and Federer heading home after another shock defeat, men's tennis is on the verge of a seismic shift in power.

No player has owned the top spot for so long with a break, but Nadal is now just three victories away from relegating Federer back to No. 2 for the first time since February 2004.

In 2004, Nadal had won nothing and had just earned himself the title of youngest player to reach the previous Wimbledon's third round since Becker. A stress fracture ruled him out of the French Open just as Federer's reign began.

Yet four and a half years later, Nadal is just three victories away from that honour. By my calculations, those three players will be Nicolas Lappentin, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. The latter two are tough encounters for the Spaniard and gives Federer a slight chance.

The problem now occurs for Roger: Nadal looks vulnerable only to him and even then only occasionally. Yet Roger is vulnerable to everybody!

The Giles Simons and Ivo Karlovics of tennis will now approach with no fear, unlike that they would hold facing Rafa Nadal.

Now therein lies the problem...