Losing to Tommy Haas wasn’t in the plans. Roger Federer, rebounding from his decisive 0-3 defeat to Novak Djokovic in Paris at the French Open should have won the Halle tournament, or at least he thought he should. It didn’t work out, and Roger Federer heads into Wimbledon a little less confident than he expect to.
After all, he’s not the top favorite for the tournament or the second. Despite his record on the London Grass, winning the title six times and reaching another final, Federer is 31 in two months. He doesn’t get injured, but it’s clearly harder and harder for him in five set matches against elite competition. He also hasn’t won the tournament since 2009, losing the quarter finals on his last two visits to the tournament.
Last year was a big warning sign the Federer seemed to overcome. Losing to Tsonga after leading by two sets, the first time something like that ever happened to him, returned against in the US Open Semi Final. But Federer rebounded during hard courts season, in 2011 and in 2012, with a Semi Final loss to Rafael Nadal in Australia in between. Despite his belief in himself and his ability to still add Grand Slam titles, it’s been more than two years since his last major triumph.
It’s about Federer convincing everyone he still has a Grand Slam title run left in him. I’m pretty sure he believes he does. Only Pete Sampras has more titles at Wimbledon (7) than him. But the two problems that both Nadal and Djokovic pose, two players he’s lost to on their last meetings in a best of five match, might be too much for him to solve.
Because as slick and brilliant to watch his shot making might be, even at Wimbledon it might not be enough against two players who simply have more in reserves than he does. Federer always experiences a drop in form during a Grand Slam match, but it looks like only Djokovic and Nadal are good enough to capitalize on those declines and seize the match by the jugular whenever these opportunities present themselves.
In short, for Federer to win another Grand Slam, even on grass, at Wimbledon, he needs two nearly perfect matches in the bullet chamber. He barely made it past Juan Martin del Potro in Paris, only making it through thanks to Del Potro’s injury and fatigue getting the best of him. That won’t happen to him against Nadal and Djokovic on the way to the Wimbledon title.
His place as the greatest of all time is safe, for now, but with the top two players in the world playing so dominantly, being the only ones who can actually stop the other on his way to another title, chances are Federer will be left looking from the outside as two duel it out in another Grand Slam Final.