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Roger Federer: In decline?

Swiss superstar Roger Federer is considered by many to be the best tennis player of all time and his record would certainly seem to support such a viewpoint. He has dominated the sport for the last seven years, adding trophy after trophy to his collection. Four Australian Open titles, one French Open title, six Wimbledon titles and five US open titles give him a record 16 Grand Slam wins and make him only the third player in the Open Era to achieve a Career Grand Slam. As if this were not enough, he added an Olympic Gold medal in Beijing in 2008, winning the men’s doubles with compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka. He has reached 22 Grand Slam Finals and 25 semi-finals. His incredible of record of reaching at least the semi-final in 23 consecutive Grand Slams may never be broken.

This phenomenal run in Grand Slam tournaments was, however, brought to an abrupt end at this year’s French Open where Sweden’s Robin Söderling halted the Fed Express. The Express became a slow train as it spluttered its way to the Wimbledon quarter-final where Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic served as its terminus. All of a sudden people began to question whether these were merely unexpected results or whether they were more an indication that Federer’s superhuman powers were starting to desert him at the grand old age of 28 (he has since turned 29). So is this the case?

Roger Federer is still at the top of his game and more motivated than ever to stay there (This image is the property of The Daily Telegraph)

It is worth noting at this point that reaching the quarter-final of a Grand Slam is hardly a disastrous performance, unless you are Roger Federer. This in itself is testament to his ability and achievements as our high expectations make anything less than a finals appearance seem like a disappointment. Furthermore, the players who defeated him in the two semi-finals are top players in their own right and to dismiss them as flukes or shocking performances on Federer’s part would be to do them a disservice. Robin Söderling is currently the number five ranked player in the world and the only person to ever defeat Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros. Tomas Berdych is ranked only two places below him and has had something of a breakthrough year in Grand Slams reaching the semi-final in France and finishing runner-up at Wimbledon. Rather than Federer being on the slide, it is more a case of other players upping their game in a bid to challenge the man who has dominated for so long. Players such as Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic have improved immeasurably in recent years and so have moved closer to Federer’s level. In short, R-Fed, as he is known, has raised the bar in the sport as a whole and forced others to improve or risk being left in his wake.

His record in 2010 does not paint the picture of a man on the way down. Let’s not forget he has won a Grand Slam this year (Australian Open) and he has performed well in the Masters Series. He finished runner up in both Madrid and Toronto before winning in Cincinnati last week. This serves as ideal preparation for the US Open which starts next Monday (30th August) and where the five-time champion will be looking to regain the title he lost in last year’s final against Martin del Potro. Do not bet against him doing just that and adding Grand Slam number 17 to the long list of career wins.

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