Will Roger Federer End His Grand Slam Drought at Wimbledon 2015?

Joe Kennard@@JoeKennardFeatured ColumnistJune 19, 2015

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 08:  Seven time Wimbledon Men's Champion Roger Federer attends the Wimbledon Championships 2012 Winners Ball at the InterContinental Park Lane Hotel on July 8, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The one undefeated force in our universe is time. No matter how hard we may try to stave off the cumulative effects, it eventually catches up with everyone. 

Even a transcendent athlete like Roger Federer isn't immune to this inevitably.

The soon-to-be 34-year-old is firmly entrenched in the twilight of his legendary career. No longer able to win tournaments at the rapid clip he once did, the Swiss maestro's success on the court in recent seasons has been sporadic. 

Sure, many flashes of brilliance still trickle out from his trusty Wilson blade. But those moments are diluted by an increasing level of inconsistency. In his advanced (by tennis standards) age, Federer can't roll out of bed and summon his best game like he could during his prime.

And that tall peak he once reached is slipping further out of view by the day. 

Three years (or what must seem like an eternity to him) have passed since Federer won his 17th Grand Slam title. He's been unable to barge from that number, reaching only one additional major final. He came perilously close last summer to ending that skid, yet he fell short against Novak Djokovic in their epic championship match at the All England Club.

Roger Federer suffered a heartbreaking loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 Wimbledon final.
Roger Federer suffered a heartbreaking loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2014 Wimbledon final.Al Bello/Getty Images

At this stage, his performance at Grand Slams takes on an added weight. Not only is Federer trying to pad his total, he's seeking to hold off Rafael Nadal from surpassing his record and stealing away the claim to the "Greatest of All Time" argument.

When Federer took down Andy Murray for the 2012 Wimbledon title, it was seen as potentially the beginning of a late-career surge. Instead, he's lost before the quarterfinals at four of the past 11 majors he's played, something that hadn't happened once in the preceding eight years. 

Prone to more off-kilter performances lately (especially against powerful baseline players), Federer has tried incredibly hard to end his drought. He switched to a larger frame in 2014, sacrificing some of his trademark control for more pace. Stefan Edberg, his childhood idol, was brought into the coaching camp to add another voice. The two have adjusted his strategy, favoring more net approaches to keep points short and spare his body. 

Those changes have certainly paid dividends, just not to the level he's expecting. But his Grand Slam failures the last few years underline how difficult it is for an older player to fend off his younger rivals.

Forced to play best three-out-of-five set matches every other day at a major event now takes a harsher toll on him physically than it once did. With a slower recovery time, he needs a perfect draw to open up before him.

He had a golden chance at Roland Garros this year, somehow avoiding Djokovic, Nadal and Murray in his half. Yet those dreams were dashed in a lopsided quarterfinal defeat to his compatriot, Stan Wawrinka.

That loss added more credence to the prevailing notion that Wimbledon will be his most realistic shot to add another major.

Roger Federer holding the 2012 Wimbledon trophy. Will he ever win another?
Roger Federer holding the 2012 Wimbledon trophy. Will he ever win another?Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

His resume on those pristine lawns speaks for itself. A seven-time (2003-2007, 2009, 2012) champion at the All England Club, no other venue in the world accentuates his game like Centre Court. Adorned in his all-white Nike gear, he's a mix between a wizard and an artist on the turf.

Precision forehands, nasty kick serves, biting slices and well-placed volleys. They are his primary tools on the grass and have carried him to unprecedented success. Will they be able to do it again?

As Federer told USA TODAY Sports' Nick McCarvel, his sights are firmly set on making it happen:

Wimbledon has been a big goal this season for me and I'm happy how my body is feeling. I'm still here to do well, to win tournaments, to win Wimbledon, to do all these things. We're in the grass-court season, and I'm thinking ahead. I have a clear picture for what's in store for the next month.

How he performs this week in Halle (where he's also captured seven titles) could be a good barometer for what to expect. Already, he's survived an opening-match scare against Philipp Kohlschreiber before steadying himself with a routine win over the mercurial Ernests Gulbis. 

With Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori looming as potential late-round opponents, Federer won't be lacking in preparation before his trip to London. What could further boost his chances the next few weeks are the dilemmas facing his immediate competition.

Djokovic tasted a big dose of humility at the French Open after watching his hopes for a career Slam drift away. The man he lost the championship to, Wawrinka, isn't the most polished grass-court player and has a spotty resume on the surface. 

His Big Four brethren, Murray and Nadal, have also endured their share of pain in 2015, with the latter looking more vulnerable than he's ever been. 

Other contenders like Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are dealing with the aftermath of injuries, further clouding the landscape. 

There may not be a better time for Federer to strike.

His opportunities to add another Grand Slam title are dwindling. How much longer Federer intends to play is a mystery even to him. This year's Wimbledon tournament therefore has extra magnitude.

Should a bit of good fortune land his way, perhaps Federer can reign triumphant one more time.

All statistics are courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com unless otherwise noted. 

Joe Kennard is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. 



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