Taking a two month break hasn’t helped Roger Federer regain his dominance. He lost in the third round of the Madrid Masters, making it the third tournament in 2013 that he won in the previous year which he won’t reclaim. As the Roland Garros approaches, it seems the most decorated player in the history of the sport is quite far off his best or anything remotely close to that, and the end people have been speaking of for a very long time is getting closer and closer.
So what’s wrong? There hasn’t been a serious injury to rattle Federer by that much, and yet he has won against only one top 10 player this season, losing his three others matchup. His two matches again the other big four – once against Murray in Australia and another against Nadal at Indian Wells ended in defeats. To some, it may seem that the five setter against Murray in Melbourne was the best he had to give this season, and maybe emptied his arsenal too soon.
Physically, it seems harder and harder for Federer to stay on top of another player with accuracy and power. He can’t react as quickly as before, and his serve is much easier to break. Rapidly approaching his 32nd birthday, this might be the year his quarterfinals streak evaporates, but more importantly and sadly, his career might truly be hitting its final stage.
The season began straight away with the Australian Open. Federer looked impressive through the first four rounds, not dropping a set in wins over Benoît Paire, Nikolay Davydenko. Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic. As always, things were a lot trickier with Jo Wilfried Tsonga, who always makes life quite difficult for Federer, but after five sets, winning two tiebreaks, Federer advanced to yet another semifinal. There he lost to Andy Murray, with the effort from the Tsonga match a bit too much to ignore, and still managed to take Murray to five sets, again winning two tiebreaks before dropping the fifth 2-6.
It took two weeks until he played again, this time at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, a tournament he won the previous season. After two easy wins over Grega Žemlja and Thiemo de Bakker, Federer lost to Julien Benneteau in two sets, as his unforced errors, a big problem in many matches for him this season, especially with the forehand, caused him to drop the match in two sets.
A week later in Dubai Federer was stopped in the semifinals – Malek Jaziri, Marcel Granollers and Davydenko again didn’t prove to be too much competition, but Tomas Berdych was; he lost to the Czech player 6-3, 6-7, 4-6 in the semifinal.
March 4 was the beginning of the tournament in Indian Wells, another competition Federer won in 2012. After wins against Denis Istomin, Ivan Dodig and Stanislas Wawrinka, came the much anticipated Rafael Nadal matchup. Federer lost in two sets: 4-6, 2-6, in another very disappointing performance from him against a top 10 players.
Madrid came, and ended quite quickly, a lot faster than expected. Another tournament Federer won in 2012, this it was over on his second match. He beat Radek Stepanek in his opener 6-3, 6-3, but the Japanese Kei Nishikori surprised Federer in the first set 6-4, and despite Roger taking the second one convincgly 6-1, he bowed down again with too many uncharacteristic mistakes and an overwhelming 2-6 loss.