2013 – the most difficult year of Roger Federer
Roger Federer had a tough year 2013 foremost because of his back injury and equipment change, but there also were some very unlucky losses like against Robredo at the US Open or against Rafael Nadal in Cincinnati.
A lot of people questioned, if Federer is still able to play on highest level and compete against top players like Djokovic, Nadal and Murray with 32 years. Is this really the case?
Not really. It is true, that Federer had his worst year on the ATP tour since 2002 – 11 years ago. But if we look closely at the tournaments this year, we can see, where Federer lost his matches. To answer this question I will go through 2013 with a short review.
Early hard court and clay court season
Federer started the season 2013 very well at the Australian Open. Sadly he lost in a very tough 5-set match against Andy Murray, who also had a great year 2012. In the next three tournaments Roger reached the semi finals and the quarter finals twice each, which isn’t that bad at all: Nadal came back and Berdych also improved very well. Not reaching the finals seemed that he had an upset which also has resulted in the early loss against Nishikori in Madrid.
It was a very unlucky loss against Kei. Federer seemed not fighting at his best. He said, he defeated himself and promised not letting this happen again. And he held his promisse! Federer came back with a new hair cut and very strong at Rome Masters and reached the final. But at this time another player made a huge come back too: Rafael Nadal! Rafa showed there, that he still can win on tournaments of that level and defeated Federer in 2 sets.
Next up was Roland Garros. It ended in the quarter final against the local hero Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. It weren’t Federers best results until then. Still no tournament wins for 2013. But with three semi finals, one final and two quarte finals, Federer was still under the top players. The most of the media looked it from a diffrent side. On diffrent news sites, people start to talk about ‘an old Federer’, one who even should stop playing tennis. The clay court season ended in an epic final between Novak Djokovic and of course, Rafael Nadal, who won the title for the 8th time. But the grass court season was yet to come.
The Grass season and rank outside the top 4
The hopes for fans and some media were high. Federer returned to the grass court season, where he was seen as the true king since he won Wimbledon for the 7th time and got back to #1 in 2012. No more slow courts – confidence and accuracy would decide the matches from now on.
With high hopes Federer started the season with the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, where he reached the final in 2012 and lost against the local hero Tommy Haas. Federer defeated the German Zverev with a stunning 6:0, 6:0 in the quarter final first before he had to fight Haas already in the semi final, which ended with a win in 3 sets.
The final Federer had to play against Michail Youzhny. In a tough three set match Federer finally broke the curse and won his first tournament of 2013!
Was this the beginning of a new rising? Sadly not yet. Federer finished the first round against Hänescu in three sets. But the second round against the strong serving 27 years old Serhij Stachowsky was a very bitter and tough match over four sets, which could turn either way. The match ended with three tie breaks with a score of 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5). It probably was Federer’s biggest loss in over 10 years. First time he would drop out of the top 4 and ranked as number #5. Did we see the end of an era?
No! Not by far! Federer indeed had his chances, a lot of break points and even a set point in 4th set. But playing against a hard hitter, you sometimes also need some luck. If your opponent, that serves very strong, has a good day, the best player can lose such a match. And this time, it was the day of Stachowsky. Should that be a sign, that Federer can’t compete on high level anymore? Of course not. There were a lot of No1 players, that lost or even couldn’t compete on grand slams trough the years. If we look back, we can see Federer’s crazy record of 36! consecutive quarter-final appearances. Name another player who did the same! You won’t find any!
As Nadal was asked about his great hard court run until now, he answered ”Don’t worry. I will lose (laughter). Everybody lose.”
Yes, everbody can lose any time. It just was not a fitting moment at this time. And as we found out later, Federer also had to fight with back pain problems too. So it’s even more remarkable, he didn’t give up that match very lightly to Stachowsky.
The late hard court season, back pain and racquet change
It wasn’t sure, if Federer can compete on the Roger’s Cup in Canada. He already skipped that tournament back in 2012 too, which holds 1’000 ATP ranking points. And the loss maybe had some effect on Federer’s confidence too. He looked for new strategies and equipment. The idea was to change from a 85 to a to a new racquet with a larger 98 square-inch frame, that would give it more speed when hitting. All other top ten players already played with racquets even over 100 square-inch. But this kind of racquet would have an impact on accuracy also.
To test the new racquet, Federer even subscribed to two more tournaments than planed: Hamurg and Gstaad, which both were played on clay court. Federer started had a tough start in Hamburg with the new racquet, where he lost the first set against Daniel Brands. But like no one other he adapted very fast, he turned around the match and won the second with 6-3 and third set with 6-2. Federer reached the semi final, where he lost in two very close tie-breaks against the 10 years younger Federico del Delbonis . But still, not a bad start with a new racquet.
But then, the back pain problems went stronger and Federer had to play against Brands again on the clay court tournament in Gstaad, Switzerland. Federer lost in two sets 6:3, 6:4. A little shock for the fans, but Federer himself was unsure, if he really was fit to play, he admitted in the interview after.
And also he had to skip the Roger’s Cup in Canada too.
Federer’s powerful return and US Open
The signs stayed very bad for Federer after skipping the Roger’s Cup. But Federer gave new hope, as he said, his back feels well again. He also didn’t want to experiment with other rackets – the Federer as we knew, would come back to Cincinnati to defend his title, where he had beaten Djokovic last year in the final with 6:0, 7:6. But the draw would be difficult with the two best Germans, Tommy Haas and Philipp Kohlschreiber, and Nadal in his quarter draw. But Federer made the way through to the quarter final and would meet Nadal again.
And it was a really tough fight until the end! Federer won the first set with 7:5 with a crazy backhand winner. He also played great in the second set too, but Nadal used his chances for the break in an unlucky phase and won 4:6. Federer didn’t start very concentrated in the 3rd set and Nadal got an early break. But he fought back and pushed Nadal to his limits. Sadly for Federer, Nadal was the first to get match points – four of them. Federer defended them all – even the last one, where the ball was out, but Federer didn’t call. Federer lost again against Nadal – but this time it was very close and the match could go either way. The bad thing was, Federer droped to number 7. But the good thing, no one played a tougher match against Nadal at the hard court season and Federer was back – without back pains!
Federer came back to the US Open with high hopes. But again – the draw put Nadal and Federer in the same quarter again! But it would be the first time that happening at the US Open. But sadly this meeting wouldn’t happen this time too.
The first three rounds Federer finished like a breeze:
- vs. Zemlja: 6:3, 6:2, 7:5
- vs. Berlocq: 6:3, 6:2, 6:1
- vs. Mannarino: 6:3, 6:0, 6:2
But before Federer would meet Nadal, there was another spaniard: #23 Tommy Robredo!
The Head 2 Head between Robredo and Federer was 10:0! So there was a very high chance to make the 11:0 happen. But it all turned the other way.
Federer played still very good – but in the deciding moments, Federer just couldn’t convert his break points – and he had a lot of them: 16. He must be jinxed. He played the better tennis, but the luck was on Robredos side. After the match, that ended 6:7, 3:6, 4:6 Federer answered in the interview:
“I kind of feel like I beat myself, without taking any credit away from Tommy.”
THE ANSWER: Was this the end of the most successful career? Any chances for the World Tour Finals?
Federer is ranked #5 at the moment in the regular rankings which includes all ATP points from the last twelve months – 4’515 exactly..But to reach the ATP Tour Finals of the Top 8, only points count, that have been made this year – those are shown in the RACE TO LONDON rankings, where Federer is ranked #7 right now. So Federer would still be in.
But as you also can see, Stanislas Wawrinka, Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are only 100-400 ATP points away from Federer. And on top of that, Federer has to protect far more points than them until the World Tour Finals, because in Shanghai Masters last year Federer reached the semi final (360) and the final in Basel (360). He also reached the final at the World Tour Finals too (800 points) - but gladly these points won’t decide, because the World Tour Finals aren’t part of the regular season. So Federer won’t have to defend 1’520 points, but “only” 720 points.
With only two tournaments from last year, Basel and Shanghai, there could be a risk. But this year, Federer will also play at the BNP Masters in Paris, where he could get the full 1’000 extra points, if he wins.
In summary, Federer can get
- Shanghai Masters 1’000
- Basel 500
- BNP Masters, Paris: 1’000
Total 2’500 points – 720 = 1’780 “fresh” points.
So, as you can see, there’s a very high chance, that Federer will take part at the World Tour Finals. But we also have to keep in mind, that the three players behind Federer can get much more points if they win one of these tournaments. If there still would be a risk, Federer could take part at the 250 ATP tournament in Vienna as well.
From the other perspective about Federer’s game, I think, that he still can play at the highest level. I have no doubts about that at all. Federer still is able to win the World Tour Finals and a Grand Slam in the future. If it wouldn’t work out this year, which I don’t think, that it would happen, it wouldn’t be a big deal – he would come back next year for more! But let’s see how the next tournaments in Shanghai, Basel and Paris will end – I hope for a very exciting indoor season!
Even if Federer has bad times, it’s his decission, if he likes to continue to play. And as long he has fun doing it, we all can be delighted, being able, watching the greatest player of all time play and define tennis: Roger Federer.