The eulogists who interpreted a straight sets French Open quarter-final defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as time to start chronicling the end of Roger Federer as a Grand Slam contender appear vindicated by events in the two months since.
To a generation whose entire tennis timeline is flooded with Federer triumphs, critics were overreacting to a loss to one of the world’s top eight players on his weakest surface, but results since will have alarmed even his loyalist observers.
At Wimbledon, his favourite major and one where he had reached the quarter-finals on 10 successive visits, he was dumped out in the second round by 116th-rated Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Any attempts to paint that as another freak blemish were torn to shreds by reverses to Federico Delbonis (the world number 114) and Daniel Brands (number 55) in his two tournaments since.
Prior to that devastating triple whammy, the Swiss legend had been beaten just once in over five years by a player ranked outside the top 50, so it is rotten form to carry into the final Grand Slam of the year later this month, the US Open.
Federer has won five times at Flushing Meadows and progressed to the quarter-finals in his last nine participations, though 2012 was the first time in that sequence that he wasn’t in the final four following a loss to Tomas Berdych.
There is one last great Federer streak on the line in New York: competing in at least one major final in each of the past 10 years. The US Open has served as a pick-me-up before; he won it in 2008 on the penultimate occasion that he arrived without having won a Slam that year.
Failure to make the final, cementing this as his worst season since breaking out in 2003, could therefore be viewed as the closing piece of evidence that his Slam-winning days have passed.
Federer hasn’t contested the final since 2009 though and is 10/1 to go the distance this time.
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