The haunting, perhaps very unexpected, news is out. Federer lost the first set to an opponent supposed to be beaten by him in two, before 'clawing' his way back. News pundits dub it the 'Stuttgart scare'. The forecasters inside all of us concerned about Federer's performance in this year's Wimbledon, ponder nervously about whatever this is portending. Well, fear not. Take your perspective one year back, and this would no longer look like a mark of doom.
So what happened one year back in the exact same match (first round of the Stuttgart Open)?
Federer lost. In fact, the loss could arguably be the more unforgivable given the fact that he lost to Tommy Haas in his year of retirement (he was 39). Notwithstanding this 'shock', Federer went on to win the next grass tournament (beating Alexander Zverev) in the final), and then the crown jewel of all tournaments without dropping a set. Thus, if anything, this should not be seen as a scare but a much more hopeful marker of things to come. Is it not common knowledge after all that one would not be fluent at the warm-up stage.
How is Rovo seeing this
Federer was able to pull off the impressive performance which was his 2017 double championship wins, and his double sunshine wins (winning of the Indian Wells and Miami Open) because he was thoroughly rested from a six-month break. He did not have such a break in the second-half of 2017 given his participation in the US Open and the other ATP 1000 and 500 tournaments during the year's second-half. The drop in performance in 2018 just is testament to the severe decline in competitive ability which age has brought onto Roger Federer. Thus, his performance this year would be significantly less strong as compared to the Wimbledon of 2017.
We still believe that Federer would still win Wimbledon this year. Given how easily he was trouncing his opponents in last year's Wimbledon, his drop in performance this year would translate into the drop of more games and, quite probably sets, for Roger Federer, but not the championship.
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However, Federer fans should not bank too much on this as a signpost of his Wimbledon 2018 performance
If one has to pick something that would forebode a Wimbledon less smooth for Federer as compared to last year, one should pick Roger Federer's performance before his break over the clay season. Federer did not win either of the Masters series tournaments (Indian Wells, and the Miami Open) this year, whereas he won both last year against supposedly more threatening opponents.
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