Age creeps up on you in mysterious ways. Roger Federer had somewhat of resurgence this year, winning Wimbledon for the first time in three years and added three more Masters titles to his resume. But fitness and staying fresh have been problems for him, as the world number one decided to skip the Masters in Paris in order to be fit and ready for the ATP Tour Finals in London.
Last season, mind you, Federer had a wonderful finish, winning in Basel, Paris and London to close out a year without a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2010. This season was a lot of brilliant moments, with wins over Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal; winning a total of six titles and reaching three more finals.
But it was also another example of Federer’s decline, at least in his physical state. When healthy and rested, he still plays like the best in the world, with the same level and class that’s simply unmatched at the top of his game. But there are too many drop offs not just in matches, where he actually has improved his consistency, but during stretches of consecutive tournaments it’s clear that he’s having a hard time recuperating from match to match.
His loss against Juan Martin del Potro was only the third of his career to the Argentine in 16 matches between the two. It was Federer’s 7th consecutive at the Swiss Indoors, winning five times there since 2006. The match, a three setter with two tiebreaks, took 2 hours and 44 minutes. Federer looked struggling and tired throughout the entire week, and knows that last year’s magic in the final month of the season will be hard to recreate at the current state of things.
I had one of the best weeks of my life last year. The fans were amazing and the last thing I want to do is mislead any fans. This is really just a last-minute decision. I’m not going. It’s the only right decision for me. I had some niggling stuff and I didn’t want to take a chance obviously before the World Tour Finals. I need some time to prepare.
Late in the season always feels like somewhat of a dead zone. The Asian tournaments don’t get the kind of exposure the other Masters tournaments do, with some of the top players often deciding to skip them in order to prepare for a strong European finish. Federer traveled to Shanghai as his first tournament since the US Open (with the Davis Cup in between), but lost to Andy Murray. Maybe that travelling did take a lot out of him as he headed into Basel.
And there are the back pains that have been troubling him all season. After over 1000 singles matches throughout his career, nearly three months after his 31st birthday, age, fatigue and the obvious wear & tear on his body is taking its toll. Federer needs more and more rest between tournaments to bring out the best in him, which means as he continues to try and prolong and extend his Grand Slam title record, we’ll see less and less of him on the courts, unfortunately.