Once again the tennis season starts to draw to a close, and the inevitable debate about Roger Federer’s future arises. After a poor start to the year in which he failed to make the semi finals in Roland Garros and a shocking third round knockout against Andreas Seppi in Australia, Federer – now 34 – reached the next two major finals, only to be thwarted by current world number one Novak Djokovic. Having only won one major tournament since January 2010, the question has to be asked how much longer Roger Federer will be seen on the tennis circuit.
Ever since an injury-strewn 2013 there have been doubts over Federer’s fitness. A year which yielded a single ATP title led to the addition of Stefan Edberg as new coach and with it a new, more attacking style of play. However, although success in the smaller ATP tournaments has continued, it is in the major events where Federer does not live up to his old standards.
Much of this can, perhaps, be due to the form of the men around him in the rankings – notably a certain Serb, Novak Djokovic. The pair have met six times this year, with Federer winning twice, but Djokovic taking the other four and, most importantly, the U.S Open and Wimbledon crowns. In both finals Federer took the second set but then ended up losing three sets to one. Although the largest winning margin in any of the eight sets played in those two finals was 6-3, it appears Federer simply cannot produce the quality required to beat Djokovic over a best of five set match.
Yet at times this year Federer has looked back to his imperious best. He faced one single break point in the process of breaking British hearts in his semi-final victory over Andy Murray in July, and beat Djokovic in straight sets in both wins he has had over him this year. Can his body purely not take the physical barrage of playing a two week tournament against this generation of powerful athletic players anymore?
SOME MAY ARGUE THAT FEDERER HAS STRUGGLED TO ADAPT TO THE MODERN GAME, WHERE PACE AND POWER IS KEY
Federer has always been regarded as a player with all the shots. A serve that has hit over nine thousand career aces. A cannon for a forehand. A beautiful one handed backhand. Lightning quick feet. And, a mind that perhaps graces one in every decade – seen in his crazily frequent use of the ‘hotdog’ shot – and the invention of his SABR technique this year in which he rushes into the net on an opponent’s second serve. His inventiveness in terms of shot-making is sometimes only matched by his spectacular ability to ping winners off his forehand side from almost any position on the court.
Conversely, on the other side of the net you have the ‘new’ style of player – your Murrays or Djokovics. The quickest players to have ever played the game. Rock solid off of either flank. And perhaps most importantly, unbelievably fit, meaning they can keep up this game plan for hours on end. That is not to say they cannot play other forms of tennis, but when Federer comes up against these players his attacking game has to be not only more consistent, but more precise than ever.
With only two tournaments remaining before the season ending ATP World Tour Finals Federer will be hoping to end the year with a bang. Playing on hard court and with a best of three sets format confidence will not be a problem for Federer, and it will be no shock to see him go far. How many times he will return to the venue, though, is more uncertain. But, with the talent and outrageous brilliance this man can produce on a tennis court I’ll be shocked if it isn’t at least once or twice more.
Watch the highlights from Federer’s defeat to Djokovic in this year’s US Open below.