â†µEven as a quarterfinal loser in a four-setter with Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon, Roger Federer will still have a couple of firsts attached to him in the coming weeks. As in: 2010's the first year since 2002 that he won't play in the Wimbledon final, and the first year since 2005 that he won't be in at least three Grand Slam finals. â†µâ†µ
â†µIt's also the first time he seems closer to the end of his powers than the peak, the first time Roger might be a royal and not a rajah. His career's probably not over quite yet, though. â†µâ†µ
â†µFederer turns 29 in August. Rod Laver won five Grand Slams, including a sweep of all four in 1969, after turning 29. Andre Agassi won an Australian Open at 32. Pete Sampras won a U.S. Open at 31. Men's tennis occasionally allows its fading stars last moments of brilliance, and Federer has been the brightest star in its history. â†µâ†µ
â†µFederer's newly balky back, which he cited after his loss today, is more troubling than mere aging. He's recovered from back pain before, but three years of aging plus limited mobility could make even Federer—who relies on shot-making and guile to outfox, rather than overpower, opponents—a lesser player. (A prominent tennis observer calling Fed blaming injuries "pathetic" also suggests this may be more about faltering than falling apart.) â†µâ†µ
â†µBetween age, his eternal deficit in physicality to younger, stronger, bigger players, and injury, it's reasonable to expect Federer to be diminished in the twilight of his career. It's also remarkable, if two quarterfinal bows are a shocking lowlight of a year in which he's won a Grand Slam, that a lesser Federer might still be more than any other player fairly often. â†µâ†µ
â†µIt's time to consider Roger Federer a mortal maestro instead of an invincible conqueror. But it's not time for eulogies just yet. â†µâ†µ
This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.