Analyzing Roger Federer's Slow Start to 2013 Tennis Season

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent IApril 9, 2013

Aug 30, 2012; Queens, NY, USA; Roger Federer (SUI) rests during a line change in his match against Bjorn Phau (GER) on day four of the 2012 US Open at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  Mandatory Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

At age 31, Roger Federer's sluggish start to the 2013 season certainly begs the question: Is Fed finished?

The 17-time Grand Slam champion has yet to win a singles title entering the European clay-court season, and boasts a lackluster 13-4 singles record through the first three months of this year.

Since flaming out in the fifth set against Andy Murray in the semifinals of the 2013 Australian Open, Fed has had some disappointing exits. He lost in straight sets to Julien Benneteau in the quarters at Rotterdam, fell to Tomas Berdych in the semis at Dubai and was crushed by Rafael Nadal in the quarters at Indian Wells last month.

Although it's unfair to place the blame for Federer's 2013 struggles solely on his age and battle-tested body, there is definitely some validity to that argument considering the Swiss legend has played in over 1,000 singles matches as a professional since the late 1990s.

On top of that, Fed suffered a back injury a little less than a year ago in lead-up to Wimbledon. Whether he admits it or not, back pain has certainly been an issue for Fed this year. He hasn't always looked comfortable on the tennis court, and his inconsistent serve also points to a less-than-stellar feeling back.

Though the straight-set losses to Benneteau and Nadal are alarming, the inconsistent serving is even more concerning, however, as Fed has seemingly always been able to rely on that part of his game.

We've known for years now that Fed isn't the same player he was from 2003 to 2010, when he won 16 Grand Slams in a seven-year span. But even nearing age 32, it's difficult to think that Fed's struggles could be long-lasting.

The fact that he's taking such a lengthy break away from the game this spring is telling and says a lot about where he is physically. 

Another sign of Federer's decline is his current world ranking. He's down to No. 3 in the ATP world rankings behind Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Clearly, he has a long way to go to finish the year with a half dozen singles. He won six last year, including Wimbledon, and finished with a singles record of 71-12.

Sure, Fed's 2013 struggles can be attributed to age, but more so his banged-up body, specifically his aching back and the inconsistency brought on by it.

With rest, Federer will be back and playing at a high level once again. But Wimbledon will be Fed's biggest test to date. If he stumbles at the All England Club this summer, then we'll know for sure exactly how much the tennis legend has left in the tank.

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