I used to rule the world,
Feel the fear in my enemies eyes
People couldn't believe what i'd become...
Or so the Coldplay song goes, but for Roger Federer it really is a case of "but that was when I ruled the world."
The days of his dominance over tennis have become just a part of history, and are now only present in a few flashes of brilliance that cause you to coin the phrase "vintage Federer."
Most Federer fans will reminisce of a bygone era when the Federer Express used to blow away most, other than a guy called Nadal, with his venomous forehand, touch at the net, unreadable serve, and his single-handed backhand that, when firing, was like poetry in motion.
Federer's semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic was the first time in six years that he had failed to make the final and the first opportunity he had to face his greatest rival on arguably his best surface to face him on—a chance at revenge, to deny Nadal the career slam that his rival had done so often to him at the French Open. Federer himself stated after his loss that he 'would have loved to play against him here'
In a match that was as up and down as a person suffering bi-polar disorder, Federer didn't look like a true champion, he looked like a man who couldn't maintain a certain level for more than one set.
He won the first set 7-5 after coming from 4-2 down earlier on. I assumed Federer would probably go on to win in three sets at this point, taking into account his match with Robin Soderling. The second set went the other way his serve suddenly collapsed and Djokovic seemed picking it each time, getting a huge amount of balls into play and the second set was over in less than 30 minutes.
Federer hit back to take the third set 7-5 when Djokovic seemed to tighten up at serving to stay in the set. Federer was now two sets to one, but could not maintain the advantage and once again his serve seemed to worsen in the fourth set as Djokovic was once again forcing Federer to rally with him an he could not out rally him, losing the set 6-2.
Many fans rejoiced when Federer teamed up with Paul Annacone. This, some thought, would re-energize Federer's game, and that it did. In Montreal we saw a net-charging, second serve attacking, and all-out aggressive Federer. What happened to all of this in the fifth set? He only came to the net four or five times this set.
This was probably the strangest part of the match for me, seeing a slightly tense and tight Federer in the later stages of the set. At 3-4, 30-30 with Djokovic serving, Federer had an easy backhand after a botched drop volley by his opponent and he snatched at it and it went into net.
Then, at 5-4 he had two match points, both had second serves, and Federer simply put back weak returns both times. He then played more tentatively than Andy Murray on both match points, simply shunting backhands over the net onto the service line.
This than gave Djokovic the initiative and credit must be given to Djokovic to come up with winners and to have the heart and balls to attack those short balls. I had a feeling Djokovic would break after saving those match points, and he sure did.
Federer couldn't produce the champions serve when it mattered and tightened up with three shanked forehands in a row to hand Djokovic the break. Considering his woes this year, maybe it is unfair of me to say that as he may have lacked confidence, however that's what happened.
In the end, it was his forehand that was his undoing, along with the 66 unforced errors in the match compared to Djokovic's 39. Yes, being more aggressive you are likely to have a few more errors, but shanking routine forehands at key points just isn't good enough.
Federer is likely to drop back to No. 3 in the world regardless of the result in today's final, and may never get back to No. 1 again. Yes, some would argue one grand slam win, two quaterfinals, and one semifinal are good results, but compared to his winning three and getting to four finals for a few years, it's fairly poor by his standards. To add to this are all his unusual losses to various opponents throughout the year.
Is Federer done winning slams? Definitely not, but the days where you couldn't confidently back him to win a slam are gone as is his grip over the tennis world. He's beatable now, even in the slams, and the players in the locker room are very much aware of this. No doubt he will go down as the one of the greatest players, if not the greatest of all-time. Even though his dominance and consistency have gone, he's not done, at least not yet.