It’s been a topic for years now – when will Roger Federer fall out of the elite conversation in men’s tennis? 2013 is no different as doubters continue to predict the demise of the 17 time grand slam winner. He finished 2012 leaving a bitter taste in his followers’ palates, losing to Andy Murray in the 2012 Summer Olympics gold medal game in three sets, winning the Western & Southern Open at Cincinnati over Novak Djokovich, losing in the quarter final of the U.S. Open to the Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych in four sets, and finishing the year losing tournaments in China, Switzerland, and London.
The poor ending to 2012 wouldn’t be as concerning if it weren’t coupled with even more struggles by Federer to open the 2013 season. He hasn’t yet made it past the semi-finals in any of the tournaments he’s been a part of yet, most recently falling to rival Rafael Nadal at the BNP Paribas Open in two sets. Still at the age of 31, the all-time record holder in Grand Slam titles is not, and shouldn’t, call it quits just yet. There is plenty of gas in the tank. He begins play at the Mutua Madrid Open today.
One of the early signs to determine whether Federer will put pressure on Murray for the #2 ranking in 2013 will be at Madrid in early May. Federer will have had two months off to recuperate from his loss in the semi-finals at Indian Wells, and while the tournament will be played in Nadal’s backyard and on clay, Federer needs to make a statement and should at least make it to the finals of the tournament.
Rafael Nadal virtually owns Roland Garros. With Rafa back from his 7-month layover and proving he hasn’t missed a step, the 2013 French Open may be all but wrapped up. Even with the absolute remarkable play of Djokovic, Nadal may still have the advantage at the French Open, but with Djokovic vying for four championships in the calendar year, he will certainly make things interesting (especially after beating Rafa at Monte Carlo a few weekends ago). Will Federer be a wild-card here though? He hasn’t won the French Open since 2009, which proved to be his one and only victory at the tournament in his career. While he didn’t play Nadal during the 2009 French Open, showing that he can win at Roland Garros is still certainly notable.
Wimbledon should go to Federer. He’s won 7 Wimbledon Championships over the course of his career and if there was one Grand Slam Federer would ideally end on, it would be in southwest London.
The Grand Slam that is open widest to the “Big Four” is undoubtedly the U.S. Open. While Federer was clearly the favorite in the mid-2000s, the competition has closed the gap on the Swiss player’s historical dominance. The past three winners of the tournament have been Nadal (2010), Djokovic (2011), and Murray (2012). None of these is the sure favorite to win in Queens, with Djokovic possibly being the early favorite. Still, Federer has a very real chance of winning the U.S. Open and with the recent increases in prize money Federer will be motivated to make a grand statement and to reclaim his dominance on the DecoTurf fast track.
If Federer can finish strong at the French Open (he beat Somdev Devvarman a day ago in round 2) and then go on to take Wimbledon in June, this will all lead up to the final Grand Slam of the year in late August. Now, with Murray and Djokovic in top form and Nadal almost in top form, what happens when the all-time record holder with 17 career Grand Slams competes at the top of his game as well? It will make for one heck of a competition among these Big Four, and a true treat to watch for fans.