Roger Federer recently won the 2011 Barclay's ATP World Tour Finals and the Swiss Maestro is currently the second favorite to win the 2012 Australian Open (all favorites: bet365).
Federer has earned some support due to how he played at the recently completed ATP World Tour Finals. However, his backers are mistaken in using his form from London as a predictor of how he will play in Melbourne. The current format for the ATP World Tour Finals is too different from the format of a Grand Slam event to think that success in one entails success in the other.
The World Tour Finals features round robin play followed by a semifinal and a final with the winner playing five matches in seven or eight days.
However, those matches are all best of three sets and while they are against top competition for every match, you can still hope to get off the court in two sets and in less than 90 minutes at least part of the time.
At Grand Slams, you have to win seven matches in fourteen days with all of the matches best of five sets.
All of those extra sets disfavor Federer especially as he ages.
Federer got off the court in 61 minutes against Nadal in London last week but there's no real way to hope for that kind of match length in a Grand Slam without a retirement being involved. Even Lukas Lacko kept Federer on the court for 84 minutes at Melbourne Park last year in what was actually a cake-walk for the former world No. 1 player.
In events that have matches that are best of three sets, the older veterans are not so disadvantaged against the younger players in terms of relative fatigue. The reason for that is that fatigue doesn't play as big of a role in the best of three set events as it does in the best of five set events.
A 30-year-old can run with a 24-year-old on the tennis court for a couple hours without losing too many steps, but it's different in a four hour match, especially late in the tournament's draw.
Djokovic, Murray and Nadal are all significantly younger than Federer and for that reason he will have trouble against them in the late rounds of Grand Slams. That has mainly been the case for over a year now and it will be the case for the rest of Federer's career.
That doesn't mean he can't win but if he gets to the semifinals against someone like Murray, Djokovic or Nadal then those players are very likely to have more energy. Federer has to be considered a worse favorite than second due to that.
Even players like Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga can threaten Federer in the late rounds, more now than ever and they each already have Grand Slam match wins against the Swiss Maestro.
An excellent draw at Melbourne Park might see Federer fall in the same quarter as Mardy Fish as the American is himself an aging veteran. However, even with that draw, it's just too hard to picture Fed beating Nadal, Murray and/or Djokovic in back-to-back matches.
In order for Federer to win another Slam he now needs some luck to go with his best tennis. Federer needs to be at the top of his game but he needs a comfortable draw through the first three rounds against opponents who can't challenge for even one set.
A marathon match like the one Fed had against Gilles Simon in the second round of the Aussie last year could really drain the Swiss Maestro's energy—energy he needs to conserve for the late rounds.
An upset loss to Murray, Nadal or Djokovic before the semifinals would definitely help Federer as well, provided the upset loss was on the same side of the draw as the Swiss Maestro's.
But in conclusion, I have to express my continued pessimism regarding Federer and his quest for a 17th Grand Slam title. The best of three sets format versus the best of five sets format makes a pivotal difference when it comes to crowning a tournament champion. The best of three sets format doesn't test a player's endurance as much as the best of five sets format does.
Older players like Federer can still win ATP titles but in the non-ATP Grand Slam events, they are long shots.
Federer should be considered a fifth favorite behind Djokovic, Murray, Nadal, and Tsonga for the Melbourne Park title. Those are the players, and maybe Delpo if he plays better in 2012, who have all the ingredients for Grand Slam success: enough pure talent to beat anyone, enough wind in the lungs, and enough energy to burn in the legs as the conclusion of the fortnight approaches.