The decline of Roger Federer

Finale Roland Garros 2009 : Roger Federer Roger Federer should quit tennis by the end of the year.

His latest quarter-final defeat to the hands of Austrian Jurgen Melzer at the Monte Carlo Masters has proven how far he’s fallen.

Having already lost his number one world ranking to Rafael Nadal, the 16-time Grand Slam winner has dropped to number three in the world and looks more likely to fall further than return to his former glory.

It’s a sad state of affairs for the Swiss. Many people, me included, would say he’s the best player in tennis history so for his sake he should retire rather than turn into a Lleyton Hewitt.

Pete Sampras left the sport around the same age as Federer is now after winning the 2002 US Open and was remembered in such high esteem despite a similar bad patch during the turn of the millennium.

One hopes Federer can also produce one more triumph before retirement but here’s how I see the 29-year-old’s season from here.

He’ll no doubt lose at the French Open. Before it was always to Nadal in the final but the likelihood is he will fall at the quarter-finals or semis.

When he then loses at his beloved Wimbledon again the mind will then creep towards retirement. Losing to Tomas Berdych in last year’s quarter-finals was a huge shock and if he does something similar in 2011 it could spell the end.

Another tournament he’s always been dominant in is the US Open. Novak Djokovic has proven unstoppable on the hard courts during the early stages of this season and that may well see him crowned winner at Flushing Meadows should he continue his fine form on his charge to number one.

Come the time when the ATP World Tour Finals is set to take place Federer may have won a few more singles titles but his previous dominance will have diminished.

The chances are he’ll want to say goodbye to Wimbledon’s centre court so one more send-off year could happen but the end of the Federer reign is undeniably here.

Looking at it from a different perspective, what does that mean for the rest of the ATP tour? It certainly gives the likes of Andy Murray a chance of a first Slam and Juan Martin Del Potro the chance of more.

Djokovic and Nadal may be fantastic players but they’ve never really had a dominating career like the one Federer has had. Djokovic is reaping the benefits of Federer’s decline already and others could follow.

Whilst every major had Nadal or Federer as clear favourites some more of the top ten will be fancied in this new era of tennis.

As unfortunate a loss to tennis as Roger Federer is, it will blow the men’s tennis field a little bit more open.

Some classic Federer from his 2010 US Open fourth round tie against Brian Dabul


Sweet Victory

Ryan Sweeting beat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston to lift the first ATP Tour title of his career.

Upon winning, the American jumped into a pool and he’ll be looking to make more of a splash on the tour now as well (insert groan here).

On his way to the final he defeated fellow American and second seed Sam Querrey as well as former top 15 player Ivo Karlovic.

After losing the first set without gaining a break of serve, Nishikori will be ruing the three set points he missed at 5-4 up in the second as he fell in exactly two hours at the ATP 250 event.

Ryan Sweeting

As the name suggests, Sweeting will now gain 250 ranking points to push him to a career high position somewhere in the 70’s. It’s also the first time a wildcard has won the event since Mardy Fish in 2006. Since then Fish has gone on to become the USA’s number one player so this victory is a great boost for Sweeting and American tennis.

At the age of 23, he’s still got time to improve but any chance of a major title win during his career is unlikely. Still, a resurgence for Fish and Sweeting as well as the progression of teenager Ryan Harrison should increase the level of support for tennis fans in the US.

There’s also some good news for the beaten finalist, a prospect covered on here in the past. Despite the defeat, Nishikori is projected to be in the world’s top 50 once the rankings are out, almost matching the highest ever position of a Japanese player.

That’s currently held by Shuzo Matsuoka who reached #46 in 1992. Nishikori has every chance of breaking that record in the near future to slightly brighten the mood of a country surrounded by devastation following the tsunami last month.

Sweeting became the fifth newest player to win an ATP title this year joining Pablo Andujar who claimed the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca and Milos Raonic amongst others.

Canadian Raonic managed to beat Michael Llondra in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters and his progress at that tournament shall be watched with an eagle eye over the coming week.

Elsewhere in Monaco, Bernard Tomic lost out in qualification to Julien Benneteau while Ernests Gulbis saw off Alexandr Dolgopolov, a player only just coming to fruition after a fine run in the Australian Open this year.

Gulbis, 22, is a great clay court player looking to recapture the promise he showed last year when he beat Roger Federer on the surface. The Latvian’s next match versus Raonic is set to be a cracker of a second round tie.

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