Roger Federer Is Turning 30 but Can He Defy Age and Continue To Be at the Top?

Vee JayAnalyst IAugust 7, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 29:  Roger Federer of Switzerland looks dejected during his quarterfinal round match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France on Day Nine of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 29, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

On Monday, the 8th of August, Roger Federer will celebrate his 30th birthday. As Peter Bodo says in his interesting article, the Swiss would then be officially over the hill.

It also transpires that Federer isn't thinking of hanging up his boots soon. He had declared last October in an interview that he expects to play for another three or four years. This was further confirmed when he told Bodo that he has planned his schedule beyond Olympics next year.

Federer maybe prepared to continue playing as a second-tier player beyond 2012, or he maybe in denial and has convinced himself he can still play as well as he had done earlier.

However much we might want to believe that for Federer the normal rules of aging don't apply and that he is immortal, the harsh truth is that age is an enemy nobody has yet conquered.

The decline between 29 and 30 maybe slow, but the decline after 30 is dramatic for athletes who depend on speed, quickness, explosiveness and power.

Last year, I predicted, based on three databases containing data from 1973 of elite players (those who had been ranked No. 1, those who had been ranked top 10 and those who had won at least six Grand Slam titles), that Federer may not win any Slam this year and may at most win one.


Fans of the great Swiss attacked me claiming that predictions based on performances of other elite players could not apply to Federer.  The Swiss, according to them, could be called an "outlier" i.e. a data point falling outside the trend curve.

But my prediction is proving true as Federer can win not more than one Slam this year.

This year, Federer passed an important milestone in his inevitable decline. When he lost in the semifinal of the Australian Open, then for the first time since winning Wimbledon in 2003, he ceased to be the current holder of at least one Grand Slam title.

Federer, like Sampras, may still win one more Slam, but chances of that happening are low with the top being heavy unlike in the years 2001-2002 when there was a vacuum at the top.

If we look at Grand Slam winners from 1973, there have been just nine times players* aged 30 or more won out of a total of 154 i.e. about 8 percent of the winners have been 30 or more.

The situation is even more bleak when we see that no player aged 30 or above has held the year-end No. 1 ranking since 1973.

So, if Federer plans to play till age 33 as he stated in his interview last October, then his fans will have to get used to seeing him as the dangerous "also ran." He may not even be in the top 10 after 2012.


*Players aged 30 or more who won slams (since 1973):

Andre Agassi (2001,2003), Pete Sampras (2002), Petr Korda (1998), Andres Gomez (1990), Jimmy Connors (1982, 1983), Arthur Ashe (1975) and John Newcombe (1975).