The warning signs have been there for the last few months and the way Roger Federer lost to Filippo Volandri in Rome yesterday confirms the Swiss is in his first slump as a No. 1.
The match was arguably Federer’s worst and his most lopsided loss since taking over the top ranking in February of 2004. And the straight set loss is already his third of the season after incurring just one the last two years, and that being an arguable “tank” against Andy Murray at Cincinnati last summer.
What’s amazing is Fed was simply never in the match against Volandri. And Fed knows it.
“I don’t know if I could say I played shocking, I just didn’t feel like I was in the match at all today. It was over in no time, and I was always the wall against the back. ” – Federer after loss to Volandri
At least against Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo he hung around for the first few games, and against Guillermo Canas on the American hardcourts he was in the mix, but yesterday it was like Fed never showed up. Give full credit to the speedy Volandri, a true dirtballer who’s minus any huge weapons – he’s almost a poor man’s Guillermo Canas, from what I’ve seen of him (discloser: I did not watch the match yest) – but was still able to slam the door shut of Fed when the oppurtunity came.
But Federer should not be losing to Volandri if he really thinks he can make a real run at the French. And while Fed will get over the defeat in time, especially if he plays Hamburg which has a surface much to his liking, his competition will not.
The loss to Volandri, a tier two claycourter at best in my opinion, gives even more hope and confidence to Fed’s future opponents on clay, making his French attempt that much tougher.
So if you are Fed is it time to panic? Not quite. Is his legacy at the top over? No way. The clay season as we all know figured to give Fed the most trouble. And it has. Of course it comes on the heels of two losses to Canas on hardcourts so many people will argue that we’ve seen the best from Fed. And it’s a fair argument and one I’ll listen to because the indications and evidence are there, but I’ll hold off on that for now.
Regardless of what happens to Fed this clay season, if there is any slippage in his game we’ll see it at Wimbledon or during the U.S. summer hardcourts. But Fed’s chances at Paris clearly don’t look good after this latest loss. And for Fed that’s been the real goal this year.
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