Over the last five years it has been unthinkable, but could the final day of Wimbledon this year not feature Roger Federer? Here’s five reasons that suggest Rog may be watching the final like the rest of us this year.
1. The tennis world has caught up
It’s April and Roger Federer hasn’t won a trophy yet. Most players would give their right arm to reach three semi-finals and a Grand Slam final before the clay court season has even begun but for Roger the bar is set higher. In 2009 he hasn’t been able to beat any of the three players most likely to end his Wimbledon ambitions: Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Murray in particular has been a thorn in Federer’s side, beating him twice this year.
2. Roger doesn’t look like his cool self
When Roger walked onto Centre Court at the start of last year’s Championships wearing a retro cardigan it spoke of a player comfortable in his position at the top of the game. Players unsure of themselves don’t invite attention by dressing in such a fashion. Fast forward to the player who couldn’t control his tears after losing the 2009 Australian Open final and fast forward again to the player who smashed his racket after losing in Miami and the one word you wouldn’t use to describe that player as “cool”.
3. History is against him
In 2009 Federer will be chasing his seventh consecutive Wimbledon singles final. No player, ever, has reached the final that consistently since the challenger round was abolished. Pete Sampras’s seven titles were separated in 1996 when he failed to reach the final, and many would argue there were fewer challengers to Pistol Pete’s hegemony back then. Bjorn Borg, like Federer, lost his sixth Wimbledon final and never made a final again, losing his passion for the game and retiring.
4. Roger’s becoming a dad
Federer has announced that he and partner Mirka Vavrinec are expecting a baby “sometime” in the summer. If the baby is due at any stage during Wimbledon then nobody could expect the five-time winner to have his mind on the Championships but, more broadly, history suggests that fatherhood dulls a champion’s edge. Tennis dads have won only 10 of the last 115 Grand Slam titles. John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg did not collect a major after becoming a father and only Jimmy Connors, who won three majors after the birth of his son, offers hope to Federer on the fatherhood front.
5. He has no coach
Roger has been spectacularly successful without a traditional coach. But everything is easier when you’re winning and now an experienced coach could offer three things: he could help shoulder the burden of Federer’s lacklustre year, he could tell the world No.2 some uncomfortable truths about what parts of his game need improving and he could help devise some strategies to counter his opponents.