Can Roger Federer win another Grand Slam singles title? As time goes by it is going to be more and more difficult even for this ethereally skilful and supremely fit athlete to bring up title No 21. At 38, age seems to have finally caught up with the player widely regarded as the greatest of all time. With a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles he is certainly worthy of the exalted status. But then all great careers have to end someday. It is a credit to the affable Swiss that he has carried on for so long and even as one would hate to say it his time near the top could well be over.
Yes, one is aware that a great champion should never be written off. And in Federer’s case he has fought back in the past. One recalls how his tennis obituary was written in 2016 when after a knee surgery which was followed by back injury he had to miss a good part of the season. The prolonged recovery hiatus saw him drop out of the top ten for the first time in 14 years. This combined with a Grand Slam drought spanning over four years led to many analysts believing that his outstanding career was finally coming to an end and he would never again win any major titles again.
The recovery was however just round the corner. At the start of the Australian Open in 2017 his ranking had slipped to No 17 the lowest in over 15 years. And who won the title that year? Yes, Federer by defeating Rafael Nadal in the final. Six months later he won an eighth Wimbledon title and then retained the Australian Open title in January 2018. All these unexpected achievements saw him claw back to No 1 in the rankings.
However that Australian Open is the last Grand Slam he has won. Since then he has performed creditably enough to be in the top three but the majors have eluded him. At Wimbledon last year he went down to Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals. At the US Open he was upset by John Millman in the fourth round. This year at the Australian Open he was stunned by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round. He fared better at the French Open and Wimbledon going down to Nadal in straight sets in the semifinal in the former and losing to Novak Djokovic in the final in the latter after having two championship points. Now comes the latest defeat at the hands of a player ranked No 78 Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals at the US Open. It was the Bulgarian’s first win in eight meetings with Federer. More to the point before the fifth set Federer called for a rare for him medical time out and after a talk with his physio left the court for an apparent back problem.
As is well known as one goes older the recovery process takes longer. Federer came back once before but this time a comeback will be that much more difficult particularly with a number of young challengers climbing their way up the rankings and old rivals Nadal and Djokovic still around.