Sunday, April 28, 2013

Federer's top ten run at risk

Since October of 2002, (when the Angels won the World Series; when Emmitt Smith passed Walter Peyton as the leading rusher; when Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Piece Prize) one thing has been consistent throughout the tennis rankings, and that is that Roger Federer has been in the top ten. Just over ten and a half years later, and now it is time to start thinking about what a top ten without Federer would look like.

Ever since 2008, when Rafael Nadal became the world No. 1, people have been saying that Federer's era is over. And twice Federer has silenced the critics by returning to top ranked position in the world. Federer has gone in and out of dry spells over the last five years and has always come back to play his best tennis when it matters most.

However, this time Federer is in a slump like he has never been in before. He has a record of 13-4 and has failed to reach a final at any event this year. All of his losses have come to lower ranked players and his worst loss of the year come to 39th ranked Julien Benneteau.

Federer has not won a title since his run at ATP Masters Series 1000 Cincinnati. Federer is has a record of 1-8 since Cincinnati against Berdych, Del Potro, Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic. However, the most surprising number of all to describe Federer's slump is his Race Ranking of 10. With a run to the final in Barcelona, Nicolas Almagro surpassed Federer in the Race Rankings this week.

Normally it would be easy to dismiss Race Rankings, since it is only a tool for predicting. But as the season gets longer, the more accurate of a predictor the Race Rankings are. Now, we are over a third of the way through the season, so it is hard to ignore Federer's dismal ranking at 10. Federer fans will come to his defense and say that his ranking is only so low because he skipped Miami and Monte Carlo. That is a fair point, but Federer cannot make up the points he missed in those two tournaments, so the excuse does not mean Federer will automatically keep his ranking up.

What the Race Rankings are very important for, aside from predicting year-end rankings, is determining who gets to compete in the year-end finals. Right now, the Swiss Maestro is two spots out of qualifying for the round-robin tournament. If Federer fails to qualify for the tournament in London, that is when the possibility of dropping out of the top ten becomes serious.  Federer has 800 points to defend in the year-end finals, so if Federer is not in the top 8 for Race Rankings after Paris he won't be in the top 10 for much longer in the Emirates ATP Rankings.

The chances of Federer dropping out of the top 10 at any time this season is slim, but at this rate, Federer would not be able to stay in the top 10. I expect Federer to turn this season around and stay in the top 10, but not before he sees his ranking slip several more spots. Federer still has to defend semifinal appearances in Rome and Roland Garros (two results that are almost impossible to improve upon), finals in Halle and London Olympics (which he will not get the opportunity to defend this year, but he will compete in Montreal this year), and titles in Madrid, Wimbledon, and Cincinnati.

Federer might be the No. 2 in the world, but his ranking can only go down between now and the US Open. At that point, Nadal will have nothing left to defend for the rest of the year, which makes a No. 3 ranking at the end of the year seem like wishful thinking for Fedfans. Federer's ranking may drop over the next five to eight months, but he can still compete for grand slam titles, which is his motivation for continuing the play the game.

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