2013 has been a rough year for Roger Federer, but there is still an opportunity for him to make something of it. A shocking second round loss at Wimbledon to Sergiy Stakhovsky — a tournament Federer has won seven times in his career — seemed to be his lowlight of the year. But in just over a month, Federer has another chance to win a major title in 2013 — at his second-most historically lucky tournament — the U.S. Open.
Federer’s loss at Wimbledon had nothing to do with an unknown star finally bursting onto the scene — Stakhovsky has gone on to lose four straight matches since beating Federer. Rather, the 31-year-old Switzerland native is just in a strange and unprecedented slump. At the German Tennis Championship in Hamburg last week, Federer cruised through the first three rounds. But in the semifinals, another unusual ending met the fifth-ranked player in the world — his name was Federico Delbonis, a 22-year-old Argentinian who eventually went on to lose in the Finals.
There isn’t much, yet, to be confident of a run at the U.S. Open title — which runs August 26 to September 9 in New York City — but Federer has a few more smaller tournaments before it if he wants to get his swing back on track. The Credit Agricole Suisse Open Gstaad in Switzerland began today, and Federer has a first round bye. The tournament is just 74 miles from Federer’s hometown in Basel, and could be a welcoming environment for him to relax and focus on getting his game back together.
Few expect Federer not to figure things out. After all, no player in the history of the game has earned more money. No player in the history of the game has held position at the number one rank longer than Federer’s miraculous 302 weeks atop the list. The list goes on: most career match wins, most Olympic Games, et cetera. His unrivaled career accomplishments further complicate the understanding of his 2013 struggles, but it also gives reason to believe his return to superiority will come soon.
There may be no better place for Federer to find his groove than in the states. Federer is 64-8 all time at the U.S. Open, and at 88.89%, no player has played the tournament with a higher winning percentage. He won the tournament five consecutive years from 2004-2008, which ties him with Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors for the most U.S. Open titles since before 1968 — the year the Open Era began. In 2012 Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer each won one of the four Grand Slam titles. In 2013, each of those four sans Federer have won a Grand Slam title. So a Federer win would represent the first time in the Open era in which consecutive seasons produced the same four separate Grand Slam winners. And except for 2009 when Juan Martin del Potro robbed Federer of his sixth straight U.S. Open title, no player outside of Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Nadal have won the tournament since Andy Roddick in 2003.
To date, Federer is about seven million below his 2012 prize money, pulling in just $1,677,752 through three-quarters of the year, and he is 41 wins off his 2012 pace. He may not be able to reach those milestones in 2013, but a U.S. Open win this fall would certainly make 2014 less demanding than it would be should he go all of 2013 without a Grand Slam title, or at least just a few more smaller titles. In 2011, the last season in which Federer didn’t win a Grand Slam title, he began the year losing 12 out of his first 13 tournaments after winning the first of the season. That year, he lost to eventual U.S. Open champion Djokovic in the semifinals before going on to win his last three tournaments of the year. For Federer, winning a handful of tournaments to finish 2013 would be more than welcomed, even if one of them weren’t the U.S. Open. But make no mistake, the fifth ranked Federer still has plenty of gas left in the tank to add to his record of 17 Grand Slam titles. And despite his struggles, he still seems to be the favorite heading into the last Grand Slam of the year.