Rafael Nadal Loses: If Roger Federer Wins Down Under, Is He Back on Top?

Zee KhanContributor IJanuary 26, 2011

Will Roger Federer return to the top of men's tennis in 2011?
Will Roger Federer return to the top of men's tennis in 2011?Julian Finney/Getty Images

Roger Federer has always been very straightforward in his remarks. He understands how he is viewed and manipulates the media and fellow players with his answers.

Following his thrashing of fellow Swiss player, Stanislas Wawrinka, he was asked about the current state of his game.

"I'm starting to play my best tennis in last five, six months. I have more experience on the court," he said.

"Physically I'm fit. I'm hitting the ball better and I have more variety in the game. Serve has been much better, which is a very encouraging fact because it's been an issue for me in the last 12 months.

"I am hungry for more success."

With the shocking early exit of Rafael Nadal, who many picked to be the favorite, the spotlight has shifted. No longer are the masses wondering about the possibility of witnessing the "Rafa Slam."

The attention and limelight has returned full focus to Roger Federer's quest for a fifth Australian Open title. No more Federer vs. Nadal questions. No more thoughts about the importance of Nadal's chance at history. The focus is on Federer. He is now the clear favorite, and he loves it. 

It is these moments when Roger feels most comfortable. He thrives in situations where he is the focal point. His ability to capture the spirit of his legacy, and use that against his opponents, should be considered as much a part of his game as his forehand. He is the master of mind games.

Should he go on and capture his 17th Slam title, he will again reign supreme at the pinnacle of the men's game. A 17th Slam title puts more distance between himself and Nadal, and as more and more questions arise about Nadal's health, that number becomes even greater.

The two players have not met in Slam Final since the 2009 Australian Open. Following that crushing loss to Nadal, questions about Federer's game became a regular topic in tennis circles.

Was he on the decline?

Would Nadal's rise diminish Federer's legacy?

Truth be told, it is still too early to answer both of those questions, and it is now two years later.

If Federer is to go on and capture the 2011 Australian Open, he would be sending a clear message to a lot of his doubters. After what was considered a disappointing year in 2010, "only" winning one major, a win in Australia would mark a new beginning.

This next chapter starts here in Australia. I would like to call it his quest for separation. Putting distance between himself and Nadal is a top priority. History will be the only judge when both of their great careers are done.

Records are marked by numbers. People can analyse the rivalry between Federer and Nadal as much as they want, using obscure statistics and head to head numbers. However, 42 years from now, the most significant number will be the total number of Slams.

A win in Australia puts Federer back on top of the men's game. He has been remarkably consistent. He cannot pick and choose who he must play on any given day. The only control he has, is to play his tennis, and try to beat whoever stands in his way.

Federer proved a lot of people wrong in 2009. Will 2011 be the same?