With his exit in the Masters Cup akin to a lone knight fighting to his death, there has been an increase manifest in the hope and expectation pinned on him.
From the time he made a shaky start in the Australian Open this year due to mononucleosis till the time he engraved his name for the fifth time running at Flushing Meadows, everyone knew that there was something amiss about Federer.
For the first time in his career he seemed vulnerable and prone to losses—losses to players against whom he'd had a cakewalk before. As injury upon injury piled on his athletic body, he struggled to grasp a firm foothold in the very path that he tread before with ease and finesse.
Although there is no doubt about his calibre and ability to perform, for the first time his fans grew worried about him. "He will" became "Will he?" for the first time. As he lost his prized possessions one by one, tongues started wagging.
Anti-Federer fans gloating at his every loss, his fans praying for his divinity to unfold in his every match, and hardcore critics predicting the fall of a legacy. It seems the four corners of the world are just a'buzz with him.
Gearing up for the new season, Roger Federer ended 2008 in a manner not so like him. As he prepares himself for new challenges in 2009, as his fans pour forth along with belief, the hope that he will resurrect himself, and as his rivals and nemesis get ready to unleash themselves yet again upon him...there is a lot of pressure burdened on his already heavy shoulders.
As 2009 draws nearer, Federer has so much at stake: living up to his fans' beliefs, justifying himself to the critics, and squaring against his rivals. He's walking in the line of fire and testing his prowess to its fullest. 2008 may have been difficult physically, but with the thousands of pairs of eyes glued to him in the days to come, 2009 will be, if not a physical one, then definitely a mental challenge.