Roger Federer's Grand Slam drought has now reached three full years. The Swiss star was eliminated in his men's final matchup against Novak Djokovic, as outlined by Wimbledon on Twitter:
Federer, who has won Wimbledon seven times, entered the event with his game peaking. He took the Gerry Weber Open for the eighth time in June, which is typically a sign of a deep Wimbledon run. The previous seven times he'd won in Halle had coincided with six appearances in the Wimbledon final, including last year's near-triumph.
"Of course it's a special moment for me, to win here for the eighth time before Wimbledon. It doesn't happen without making an impression," Federer told reporters at the time.
Grass has always been the surface on which Federer is most comfortable. His first major and his most recent were at the All England Club. From 2003 to 2009, Federer was half of the Wimbledon final, winning it six times. In the Open Era, only Pete Sampras can come close to approximating Federer's level of dominance.
“I don’t know if Wimbledon is my best chance [for major title No. 18], it might be,” Federer told reporters in March. “It would be my favorite choice. If I had a choice right now, I would love to win Wimbledon. I think it’ s possible and I think if I win Wimbledon, it’s more cool for me personally and my team, Swiss people and my fans.”
The optimism heading into Wimbledon was understandable. Just last year, Federer captivated the tournament with a run to the final before losing to Djokovic. This year started out promisingly enough, with Federer getting through the tournament with relative ease. Unfortunately, he couldn't find his game Sunday and Djokovic took advantage, knocking him out before most expected.
As for the more macro question of what this all means heading into the U.S. Open, the answer's simple: not a thing. Even in an era where court styles have been somewhat homogenized, clay and hard courts are vastly different surfaces. The bounces are different, the shots you play in each situation are different and the history of success is different.
Federer remains a good player on hard surfaces but hasn't reached a final at the Australian or U.S. Open since his 2010 title in Melbourne. The best he's done is a series of semifinals ousters, including a straight-sets thumping from eventual champion Marin Cilic last year.
We're at the point in Federer's career where it's unrealistic to expect a Grand Slam championship. He'll be 34 in August. The Swiss has held off Father Time better than almost anyone else in history. The period where he's clearly the favorite against every non-elite opponent is over; he's at a danger to be upset at all times, even if he's still excellent at avoiding early exits for the most part.
Maybe Federer will make a deep run under the bright New York lights. Maybe he won't. It doesn't really matter. Federer's reached a point where we should merely appreciate the time we have left rather than foisting unrealistic expectations on a guy in the twilight of his career.