Roger Federer: Can He Jump From Three to One?
At the conclusion of his Australian Open semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer simply refused to panic saying "Let's talk in six months." That was over four months ago and while we should not be "talking" yet, one cannot help but notice that Djokovic is still unbeaten and challenging Rafael Nadal for the top spot.
One of the interesting things about tennis is the point-ranking system. Each player earns or loses points based on his performance compared to the previous year. Last year, Rafael Nadal won the French, Wimbledon and US Open. During the stretch of the season from May to September, Rafa has 6000 points to defend from Grand slams alone. This means he must win these tournaments again if he wants to hang on to those 6000 points. He cannot win anything above but if he loses, the points will come off depending how early he exits.
I think Roger Federer's strategy may actually be a simple one. If he can snatch one of the grand slams such as Wimbledon, it would add to his point total while Rafa's would lower. Bonus points will go to Federer if he exceeds the quarter-finals at the French.
The down side to this is that Rafa is on the same side of the draw as Federer. This is the case for the present tournament - the Rome Masters and will most likely be the case for the French Open and Wimbledon. Federer is hoping that this long stretch of tournament will wear Nadal down and he might be able to squeak out a win at Wimbledon (Federer's best chance and best surface). Nadal skipped the Barcelona tournament last year but played it this year probably to defend his ranking against an oncoming Djokovic.
Federer may be lucky that Djokovic being the hottest player right now, is not falling on his side of the draw. This means if they were to meet, it would only be in the finals of a tournament. Again, Federer's best chance here will be in Wimbledon, a surface where Djokovic has not excelled at.
Federer needs to have at least two final appearances at both the French Open and Wimbledon to challenge both Nadal and Djokovic. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a player on Djokovic's side of the draw that can wear him down. Nadal leads Federer 16-8 in their head to head match-ups so Federer needs to address this confronting challenge.
Fed's best chance unfortunately would come from an injury or a sagging form from both Nadal and Djokovic. That would have to happen by at least Wimbledon because the second half of the year (with the possible exception of the US Open) will see Federer with more points to defend. He has to defend championships from Cincinnati, Stockholm, Basel and London. Therefore his window of opportunity of gaining ground will be closing fast.
In conclusion, look for Federer to gain ground at the French (where he might lose to Nadal), Wimbledon (where he might surprise us yet) and the US Open. His best chances at recapturing number one is a combination of a good showing at the French, a seventh Wimbledon crown and at least a final appearance at the US Open. He would also have to maintain a level of consistency to maintain his point total during the last leg of the tour. A great challenge to say the least but then again Roger Federer is a great player.