On his worst day, Roger Federer’s third round exit at the Australian Open could have well sparked a familiar debate. Is the end near? Has the Federer Express derailed? But the 33-year old Swiss Maestro is coming off a fantastic 2014, and is still the Number 2 Tennis player in the world. The debate can be put to rest, at least for a while.
Federer’s 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (5) loss to Andreas Seppi was his earliest exit from the Australian Open in 14 years. For the first time since 2004, Federer will not be a part of the final four at Melbourne. The Swiss was all at sea against Seppi on Friday with 55 unforced errors as opposed to Seppi’s 40, and 9 double faults. His forehand was inconsistent, and he failed to convert break points when it mattered. For Federer, these are appalling numbers by his own standards. As an outright Federer fan, it was heart-breaking to see a champion go out the way he did. Yet, Federer refuses to read too much into his loss, calling it "not shocking". We believe him. He has bounced back harder and stronger, every single time.
Federer now has three shots at claiming the elusive 18th title this year, before retirement chatter resurfaces for the umpteenth time. His fans, though, are getting used to his excellence-in-patches pattern. An injury-prone 2013 was quickly forgotten after Federer returned to form the following year. Truth be told, the Swiss hasn’t won a Grand Slam ever since the 2012 Wimbledon despite glimpses of brilliance last year. But, he’s still the messiah who clinched Switzerland’s first-ever Davis Cup title, and only the third man with 1000 Open Era career wins. A record among many others that is unlikely to be toppled.
In all probability, Federer’s best chance is the Wimbledon and the US Open, where he enjoys winning. Though, he will have to battle it out against the unstoppable Novak Djokovic. Rafael Nadal’s injury woes continue, but he can still be a force to reckon with. Andy Murray is usually inconsistent, but is more than capable of surprises. Clay has never been Federer’s forte, hence it is unlikely for him to win the French Open.
It is only a matter of time before Federer’s celebrated career comes to an end. But will he go with his head held high, even if it means bowing out with 17 titles? There’s always hope with Federer around. Rivals believe he can add another trophy to his Grand Slam tally, and is far from being done yet. But is it worth the wait? Federer alone knows. As fans of the greatest modern-day Tennis player, we can only pray for one last hurrah! Allez Roger!