Roger Federer is a man of many talents both on- and off-the-court, but how long can his career really last? As he is no longer winning tournaments every month, many have called an end to his tennis career. But, in fact, he is more in control than ever, and his renewed focus this year will last him well into the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012.
Federer began the year in promising fashion taking the season-opening title in Doha, but faltered, allowing ten months to pass before winning a follow-up tournament in his hometown of Basel, Switzerland last week. Although he qualified for the 2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals back in September for a tenth straight time, it will be the first time in his career that he hasn’t won at least three tournaments going into the Finals.
With his recent confidence-surge in Basel, Federer is poised to defend his title in London, but not without a hungry pack of Europeans clawing their own way to the top of the rankings. If Federer is to make a repeat trip to the winner’s circle in London several pieces need to fall into place. He claimed the month-long pause he took prior to Basel really “paid off” in terms of his “mind, body, family, and fitness,” and he’ll have at least a week break before the London Finals to rest up. The only problem is that so does every other player in the field.
While top contender Novak Djokovic continues to struggle with his right shoulder injury, an in-form Andy Murray and a well-rested Rafael Nadal may be Federer’s biggest threats. Nadal even pulled the plug on the Paris Masters this week to focus on London. David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych could also vie for the London title as Ferrer reached the finals of Shangai and Berdych won Beijing, but neither is consistent or level-headed enough to pull off the feat. A first-time winner for London will just have to wait.
Federer has emerged as the dangerous contender as his priorities have shifted slightly since his twin girls were born two years ago, and he acknowledges that his goals might be slightly different from his younger compatriots. The effortless movement and shot-making skills on-court that defined Federer at his prime have taken a backseat to his family, where he now uses that same effortless care to look after his family. As the girls mature, they have become increasingly more present in the media, and we have seen a different side to one of the greatest champions in tennis.
The last time a top ten player was a father, was Gilles Simon exactly two years ago, but he has wavered in his rankings even falling out of the top 50 at one point. The last real champion in Federer’s similar position was Lleyton Hewitt back in 2005 when he had his first child and was ranked two in the world. Clearly, it’s a unique position to behold in tennis and shows an incredible energy to balance family and a grueling professional life. But it’s to Federer’s advantage. When Tommy Haas became a father last year, he expressed how it opened his eyes to seeing the tennis and real world in a different way. Much like Federer, he found a new focus beyond the “right now” and quickly learned that every moment with his family was precious. Haas worked doubly hard on-court in half the amount of time just to be with his family more. Although this path has not paid off professionally for Haas due to recurrent injuries, Federer seems to have taken to this principle and is molding his tennis and family life together for now.
With his renewed mind, rested body, and relaxed demeanor, Federer has entered into a new phase in his life this year, and it just may be enough to drive him to win the ATP World Tour Finals later this month and contend for the Australian Open Championships next January. Only time will tell if his resolve will once again guide him back into his winning ways.