World No. 3 and 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer stated prior to the start of the clay court Masters Series event in Rome in May of this year that he wanted to challenge the soon-to-materialize domination of men's tennis by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
So far, he hasn't managed that. He failed to defend his Australian Open title at the start of the year, he failed to convert his opportunities at the French Open against Nadal in the final and lost that title opportunity—and at Wimbledon, where he was favorite for the title in my view, he lost with a whimper to Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Whilst it hasn't been—and cannot be—a stain on Federer's CV to have not won a major title in close to a year and a half to date, it isn't a positive either. Federer has achieved as much as most in the sport would dream of achieving—but he is aiming for even more and this is license enough to critique him.
I think we can all be honest enough with ourselves to say that Roger isn't the force he once was and I think we can also likewise be honest in saying that the top two players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, are now a class above Federer. So perhaps, in this same spirit of concession, we could break the final frontier and accept that the Wimbledon and the French Open majors are probably now beyond Roger Federer's reach.
I don't mean to be sensationalist about this, but the fact of the matter is that there just too many cross-purposes at work at the top of the men's game right now. We are no longer at the stage where it was just Federer and Nadal battling it out—now there's Djokovic, Andy Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and dare I say Tsonga.
There are simply just too many people involved who cannot now be placed behind Federer in the pecking order any longer because they are younger, stronger and fitter—and they are just as talented as Federer, if not more.
Personally, I see the coming US Open Championships and the Australian Open next year as Federer's best chance of winning a 17th Grand Slam title. Federer has conceded too much ground—through no fault of his own, it must be said—on clay and grass as evidenced by 2010 and 2011, but the hard courts should prove a happier hunting ground.