Federer’s early French Open exit signifies beginning of end?

Published On June 4, 2013 | By Sarah Kirkpatrick

After losing in three sets, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3, to No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the French Open, Roger Federer appeared shaken. In the past few rounds of the French Open — and, frankly, the past few years — he’s looked uncharacteristically mediocre. And the question which many are avoiding must finally be raised: could the end of Federer’s career be approaching?

Things looked easy for Federer through the first few rounds of this year’s French Open, but he struggled through the fourth round to barely beat Gilles Simon and then exited the tournament after losing to Tsonga in the quarterfinals.

Federer said after the match that he wouldn’t dwell on the early exit, the second straight year where he has lost in straight sets in the French Open.

“For me, this is already pretty much past now,” he said. “I have no choice but to move on. I have so many more things than to worry about right other than just this. This is obviously a crushing loss and disappointed about it, but now I look forward to other things.”

And the 31-year-old does indeed have things to worry about. On Tuesday, he missed multiple simple overheads and volleys. He had no aces and dropped six serves. To put it simply, he looked bad.

Bad isn’t generally a word that would be used to describe the 17-time Grand Slam winner. But at least by his standards, he’s been less than adequate. Tuesday’s loss meant he was eliminated prior to the semifinals for the second time in the past three Grand Slam tournaments, but it was only the fifth time in the past nine years Federer lost before the semifinals. From 2003 to 2010, Federer won 16 of 27 possible Grand Slam titles. Since then, he’s been to two finals in 13 tournaments.

Tuesday was also the first time Federer had lost in three sets to someone outside the top five since 2004, when he lost to Gustavo Kuerten in the third round of the French Open that year.

Federer has not won a tournament this year — his longest drought to begin a calendar year since 2000, when he was 18 years old. Of course, this could certainly all be a fluke and just a poor start to the year, and he could get it back together in the next few months. But things aren’t looking too good for Federer, who plays in Germany next week.

Federer has said he only wants to play as long as he is relevant at an elite level; he doesn’t want to stick around past his prime. If Federer stays true to these words, and if he doesn’t pick up his play in the near future, we could see the end of a legendary career soon.

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About The Author

Sarah is a Seattle native studying journalism at Boston University. She covers track and field, cross country and women’s hockey and is Sports Editor at The Daily Free Press, BU’s independent student newspaper. You can follow her on Twitter at @Kirkpatrick_SJ.