Roger Federer: 5 Reasons He's Officially on the Way Down Heading into U.S. Open

Jaideep Vaidya@@jaideepjournoAnalyst IJuly 12, 2011

Roger Federer: 5 Reasons He's Officially on the Way Down Heading into U.S. Open

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    Roger Federer's exit at the quarterfinals stage of Wimbledon for the second year running has added fuel to the debate as to whether the 16-time Grand Slam champion is on the decline.

    Ever since he won his first Grand Slam at the All-England Club back in 2003, Roger has never gone a calendar year without winning a major.

    After making a semifinal, final and quarterfinal appearance at the three majors completed thus far, Federer has one last chance at the U.S. Open to avoid breaking his remarkable streak.

    But can he do it?

    In the Wimbledon quarterfinal match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last month, Federer surrendered a two-set lead only for the third time in his career, and for the first time in 179 Grand Slam matches.

    The untouchable aura he had around him is long gone and his vulnerability quotient seems to be increasing steadily.

    Being a huge Federer fan, it pains me immensely to gulp down the fact that the once-unsurpassable Fed Express is slowly running out of steam.

    Here's five reasons I think so:

Age

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    Let's get the obvious out first.

    Roger Federer turns 30 next month.

    Ever since that historic day in 1975 when Arthur Ashe—aged 31—beat a 22-year-old Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon, only three men in their thirties have won a Grand Slam—Petr Korda at the 1998 Australian Open, Pete Sampras at the 2002 U.S. Open and Andre Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open.

    Federer is, in no way, unfit. In fact, if you were to enlighten a tennis newbie with Roger's age, he/she would probably think you're bonkers!

    Federer is in terrific shape for his age. He looks supremely fit on the court and is sharpness personified.

    But the problem is that there are players who are fitter and younger than him.

    Roger can't expect to win a long rally against these guys because they are athletically superior to him. His game thrives on his highly efficient serve and winners, but guys like Djokovic and, more recently, Tsonga have proved that it's just not enough.

    It's a factor that Federer can't do much about, unless he's related to Benjamin Button. So, he'll just have to accept the fact that he's not the youngest of the lot and, maybe, find some way to optimize his strengths.

Steady Decline

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    In his golden era between 2003 and 2007, Roger Federer dropped just six Grand Slam titles out of the 18 he contested in.

    Roger has now gone six straight Grand Slams without picking up the trophy. His last major title triumph was at the 2010 Australian Open.

    After that win, Federer has made it to the final of a Grand Slam on just one occasion—at this year's French Open.

    Well into the second half of the reason, Roger's only tournament win came at the ATP 250 Qatar Open earlier this year. 

    His career graph seems to be on a steady decline and Roger has a lot of work to do if he hopes to create even a minor spike on it in the near future.

Lack of Motivation

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    After racing to a two-set lead against Tsonga in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, it looked like business as usual for Federer.

    But the Frenchman, who had looked subdued so far in the match, suddenly burst to life in the third set.

    Tsonga broke Federer for the first time in the third and then reproduced the form that had beaten Rafael Nadal at Queen's earlier.

    Federer was caught totally unawares and just couldn't find any reply to Tsonga's belligerent groundstrokes and imposing athleticism as the Frenchman took control of the match.

    Federer seemed to be flat out towards the end and his body language spelled submission. He just did not show the will to try anything different and wrest back control of the match.

    This Federer was poles apart from the one we saw at the French Open semifinal against Novak Djokovic. He lacked purpose and was uncharacteristically disinclined towards making amends.

    Perhaps he didn't expect Tsonga to produce such an emphatic turnaround. Federer has been guilty of complacency before and it's something he cannot afford right now.

    But even so, he needs to find some motivation and develop the mental strength to fight till the last point.

Lack of Variety

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    Roger Federer is still capable of producing the odd lob-smash and hotdog shot when required, but his game is lacking in terms of variety.

    Federer doesn't come forward as much as he used to in the past and is often guilty of not being in the right positions.

    He is quite reluctant to approach the net nowadays and loses out on a lot of points due to this. Even his drop shot, which is one of his strengths, hasn't been used as effectively as he would hope to.

    Federer's game has become quite predictable recently as he refuses to mix things up. He also becomes very defensive when he's under pressure and lets the opponent dictate play. 

Rivals Are Peaking

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    Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal—the two men ranked above Federer right now—have shared the last six Grand Slams between them and are playing the best tennis of their lives.

    The duo are at least five years younger to Federer and, thus, have the upper hand when it comes to stamina and fitness.

    Federer does manage to pull off the odd victory over them but, more often than not, they get the better of the Swiss.

    Djokovic and Nadal score higher than Federer on all the previous points and have left the Swiss with two gigantic mountains to climb on those weary legs.

Conclusion

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    Thus, Roger Federer has a lot to ponder over as he sets off on his herculean quest to end the season on a high.

    As a fan, I can only hope that he's somehow able to conquer his demons and have a Sampras-like moment towards the end of his career. 

    I used to think that he's got at least a couple more Slams left in him but his results over the last year have all but dissolved any hopes.

    But then again, there's only one man who can prove me and the rest of the world wrong, and we know that he's capable of doing it because he's done it so many times before!

    So, do what you do best and prove us wrong, Roger Federer!

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