Saturday, June 20, 2015

Can Federer Take Advantage of a Potentially Vulnerable Wimbledon Field?

For the last few years the tennis world has hyped Roger Federer's chances heading into nearly every major, only to see the Swiss legend fall short.  Despite Federer's all-time great career, at some point we may have to be realistic and realize his days winning majors are officially over.  While he's often in great form heading in, maybe that's just how it's going to be.  But despite recent history, it may not be wise to expect another slip up from Federer at Wimbledon, in what could be his last realistic chance to win a grand slam.

Federer came close to taking last year's Wimbledon title where he fell to Novak Djokovic in a tightly contested finals.  He knows he wasn't far away, and even at 33 must still believe he can beat anyone at the All-England Club.  The key for Federer is avoiding the "let down" match that he has become prone to in grand slams.  One bad day at the office is all it takes, and Federer has become less successful at surviving his off days since he entered his thirties.  At his best Federer can still take down anyone on the grass, but his title hopes may depend on whether he can pull out a victory or two on a day his forehand isn't in prime form.

Fortunately for Federer, several other of the top players may be vulnerable.  While Djokovic is still clearly the best player in the world, it's hard to say what mental toll his loss at Roland Garros may have taken.  Maybe he's put it behind him and will be ready to go for Wimbledon, but it's not hard to imagine Djokovic entering a brief slump (at least until the hard court season rolls around) following his devastating loss to Wawrinka.  Nadal is starting to come back around, but he's certainly not the player he used to be.  On the grass courts at Wimbledon Federer would be favored against the Spaniard, and as it stands now several other players could knock out Nadal before Federer has to play him.

Andy Murray is certainly playing well, but Federer has won their last 3 meetings.  And since the ATP bylaws apparently set forth that Stan Wawrinka isn't allowed to do well in two big tournaments in a row, he should be due for an early upset.  A host of others (i.e. Nishikori, Raonic, Berdych, etc) could all present problems, but Federer would be favored against any of them on grass.

It's certainly possible the trend continues and Federer falls short of everyone's expectations.  But Federer has to realize his time may be running low, and this could provide the urgency he's been lacking in recent years at the grand slams.  No one is as comfortable on the grass as Federer, and he may just be able to capitalize on a field that is showing some vulnerability.  If he doesn't, well then maybe it really is time to accept things as they are.

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