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article imageOp-Ed: Is Roger Federer Over and Out?

By Alan Wass     Feb 18, 2009 in Sports
Let's face it; sport superstars don't come much bigger or more popular than tennis legend Roger Federer. His smiling persona and undoubted talent have endured him to millions of people the world over.
During his impressive10 year stranglehold over professional tennis, Federer has managed to notch up an amazing 58 ATP singles titles, 7 doubles titles including a doubles gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 13 Grand Slam singles titles, which leaves him one behind all-time record holder Pete Sampras. Between February 2, 2004 and August 17, 2008, he held the number 1 spot for a record consecutive 237 weeks before being unceremoniously knocked off his perch by the prodigal Rafael Nadal.
There is something magical about observing the best plying their trade at the top of the food chain, whether it's Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt, Floyd Mayweather or even snooker genius Ronnie O’ Sullivan. Once in a while we have to step back and admire the near-on perfection these guys achieve week in week out.
Sport is no different to the Laws of Physics; everything that goes up must come down! In Federer, we have undoubtedly witnessed one of the greatest to ever grace a tennis court, and he will be regarded as so within the annuls of sporting history. But the question remains – has Roger Federer shot his bolt?
Although his recent Australian Open final defeat to Nadal at the Rod Lever Arena in Melbourne was highly predictable, the turning point was the loss to his Spanish nemesis on centre court at Wimbledon in the 2008 final. Grass court tennis was Roger’s comfort zone, with an uninterrupted 65 match winning streak, 40 of which were consecutive wins at Wimbledon alone. He remained undefeated on the hallowed Wimbledon turf for 5 years, taking the title from 2003 to 2007.
The enthralling 5-set loss to Nadal was probably the greatest game of tennis ever witnessed, and holds no shame for Federer, who, on the day was narrowly beaten by the better man. The psychological effects must have troubled the Swiss man ever since, and his monopoly on the game is now in question. We know Nadal will always be difficult to beat on clay and the hard courts - but at Wimbledon! His back garden! I think the epitaph is already being constructed.
In the past Federer has lay siege upon potential pretenders to his crown such as Marat Safin, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and David Nalbandian. In doing so he became the rightful heir to the throne once held by Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg respectively.
But the new young guns, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal are a different kettle of fish to the Safins and Nalbandians of this world. They are not scared of Federer’s reputation, and are willing to slug it out till the final net call. Murray has a head-to-head advantage of 5-2 over Federer, and since his loss to him in last year’s US Open final is undefeated over the world number 2. Scotsman Murray has the potential to not only overtake Federer, but also threaten Nadal’s number 1 position, if he can keep his sometimes temperamental demeanour in line.
Federer is still at the peak of his physical prowess at only 27 years old, but the fear factor of facing him is beginning to diminish with every tournament, and Roger must be asking himself some very difficult questions at this moment in time. The 2008 season was his worst in recent memory by his own very high standards, and the Australian Open runners up medal will not easily paper over the cracks that are beginning to form.
The 2009 season is already being earmarked as a career defining one for the man from Basel, and we all hope he can overhaul Sampras’ 14 Grand Slam victories in the near future and cement his legacy as the greatest player of all-time. But I am beginning to think that barring a career threatening injury to Nadal, he will be fighting an uphill battle all the way. But one thing is for sure – if anyone can, Roger Federer can!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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