There is indeed a very palpable difference in the quality of Federer's game so far this year, when compared to his performance throughout the same period last year. Apart from the Australian Open championship wins, he has not succeeded in defending three crucial titles - the Indian Wells, the Miami masters, and the Halle Open, and actually losing in the early rounds for one of them. There is always a reason for something, we believe, and Federer's relative un-performance this year could be boiled down to one change in his game - the backhand.

What about his backhand? He is slicing much more this year.. much much more it seems

Why is this development so dangerous to Federer's performance? We would like to think of this as a reversion to his old habits of play, back in the younger days when his game was much less dangerous than it was last year, but which his younger body could more than make for. By giving his opponents more time, overall, with the increased amount of slices he is making, Federer is effectively lengthening his game-play time (precious time which he could not really afford at this age when a little carelessness with regards to 'age-maintenance' would send him spiraling into retirement). One significant reason, we reckon, for Federer to maintain a thoroughly dominant 2017 (apart from his quarter-final loss in the US Open, and his first round loss to Haas at Stuttgart) was his striving to keep each point as short as possible. He rarely ever slices, on the return or during normal rally play, the consequence being the numerous backhand winners which took the world by storm. During his match against Coric in the recent Halle final, Coric was clearly taking advantage of this backhand draw-down of Federer's - many of the winners by Coric and the forced errors committed by Federer, were the direct results of a weak ball produced by a Federer backhand slice.

What may be causing this?

This may cause controversy, given the 'political incorrectness' of saying in public that Federer might just not feel that passionate about competitive tennis any longer, but we take this as a strong possibility. Given Federer's ability to hit his backhands so well last well, we see no reason for Federer to revert to his less efficient and effective ways except for a psychological one. There are two possible psychological reasons: 1) he is growing tired of the game, 2) he is losing confidence in his ability to maintain his tennis at the highest standards

Concerning the first reason, it is fairly obvious that Federer is human, and humans do have one big weakness, they tire of repetition. Federer may seem like he will never tire of the game, but we believe that such a time of wanting to move one affects everyone.

Concerning the second reason, we put this out as a possibility because of the fact that how much Federer slices, could be a barometer of the level of confidence Federer has in his game. The perfect example of this is the 2011 US Open semi-final clash between Federer and Djokovic, during which Federer was making slices most of the time when his backhand side is concerned, in the 3rd and 4th sets.

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