With Roger Federer’s third-round loss to Gael Monfils in Shanghai, many fans are finally asking the big, tough question…
It’s his sixth loss this year to a player ranked below No. 20, as many as he had in the previous three years combined.
Overall, his results on the ATP Tour this year are kinda’ saying that Federer’s best days are behind him.
This year he put up his worst calendar year since his run at the top began.
He fell in the semifinals of the Australian Open, the quarterfinals of the French Open, the second round of Wimbledon (where he is the seven-time champion, and won during his 2012 resurgence) and the fourth round of the U.S. Open.
He won just one tour event this year at Halle.
But until he decides he doesn’t have anything left, he has said he’s going to keep playing.
Right now, at the end of a disappointing 2013, that means looking ahead to 2014.
“My mindset now is, ‘OK, next year is going to be a great year again, where I’m not going to have that many points to defend, especially at some very key moments where I consider myself a favorite,’ Federer said recently at the Shanghai Masters. (He’s a master of spin, don’t forget, taking the optimistic tack again).
“For that reason, I’m really looking forward to 2014 already. But I feel like I also need the end of this year to prepare for ’14 because it has been a bit of a rocky patch the last couple of months.”
Federer has won more Grand Slam titles than any man in history (17), a stretch of dominance that included appearing in 24 finals. He also holds the record for the number of consecutive Grand Slam semifinals reached (23).
But it’s the Majors that Federer has his eye on again.
“My expectations will always remain very high,” he said. “That will never change. As long as I’m physically and mentally fine, there’s no reason for me not to be taking part in the big matches. That’s what I’m looking forward to in 2014, to be part of those big matches.”
Federer has taken some time off, but the No. 7 player in the world says he’s ready to pick it up again.
“It’s one of those things you just want to move on from,” he said of this year. “But I think my game’s been coming back, which has been very important. Now it’s about staying positive and working hard every single day. That’s been the mindset.”
Federer’s too late to for the go-out-on-top exit. If he was going to quit the game, he should have done it after the 2010 Australian Open. Or, even better, he should have walked away after beating Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2012. Then we’d spend the next 30 years wondering how many Slams he could have won.
Sure, the greats always have one last bit of magic in them. But what if that magic happened in 2012…