Down the line: Why it’s wrong to write off Federer just yet

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Sport360°'s tennis expert Reem Abulleil looks back on the last seven days on Tour and tells us why it's premature to write off Roger Federer as a spent force just yet.

Roger Federer suffered his ninth loss of the season last week, falling to Federico Delbonis in the Hamburg semi-finals.

It was the first time since 2002 (Wimbledon to Mario Ancic, Gstaad to Radek Stepanek) the Swiss had lost to players ranked outside the top-100 in back-to-back tournaments, crashing out to world No116 Sergiy Stakhovsky at Wimbledon two weeks ago, and to No114 Delbonis last Saturday.

It’s becoming a pattern that with every Federer defeat, a state of panic amongst his fans immediately follows and I’ve been receiving many tweets and messages from people wondering whether the 17-time Grand Slam champion should call it quits soon.

Here’s four reasons why I believe the soon-to-be 32-year-old is not done yet…

New racquet, new Federer

We found out in Hamburg that Federer is experimenting with a new racquet with a larger head – eight inches larger than the Wilson Pro Staff he’s been using since 2002.

It’s a true shocker to me that a veteran like Federer, who is always so committed to his game, strategy and equipment, has decided at 31 years of age and after 15 years on tour to desert the stubborn ways that naturally come with age and success, and make a change that can help him extend his career.

The new racquet suggests Federer is willing to do whatever it takes to continue playing at a high level. He may be hanging up his racquet but it’s only to start using a new one.

The Paul Annacone link

Federer’s continued commitment to Annacone is also a good sign for his Grand Slam hopes. Annacone is the man who coached Pete Sampras from 1995 to 2001 and again in July 2002 before the American won his 14th and final Grand Slam at the US Open a month later.

It had been two years since Sampras won a major and Annacone made sure his protégé went out on a high note. Federer wants another shot at a Grand Slam and he’s got the right man in his corner to help him achieve that. They turned things around at Wimbledon last year and something tells me another revival is still in the cards for the Swiss maestro.

Stats don’t lie

Although this seems like one of his worst season starts in forever, Federer is still one of the best six players in 2013 trailing only Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych in the ATP Race to London.

He’s still in the running for a top-eight finish this season even though he’s played less matches than all of those above him in the race (except for Murray who has played 39 matches like Federer).

He’s also in the top-five on the first serve points won leader board, and in the top-three in the second serve points won and service games won. And for those who were mocking his return game at Wimbledon, Federer has the sixth-best percentage of points won when returning a first serve this season.

So playing far from his best, the Swiss is still better than a vast majority of the players on tour.

Injury-free

I would be more worried about Federer if he was citing an injury week in, week out. But the Swiss remains extremely fit and with the tour packed with plenty of over-30 top players at the moment, Federer is definitely the one with the least injury woes.

When you’re fit, a perennial champion and hungry for more, which he repeatedly says he is, a Grand Slam win is always on the table.

THUMBS UP – Ivo Karlovic

What a way to bounce back! The giant Croatian who suffered from viral meningitis earlier this year won the title in Colombia on Sunday on his second tournament back from illness. The 34-year-old fired 104 aces and held all 61 of his service games en route to the title – his first in five years and fifth of his career. Welcome back, Dr. Ivo!

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Federico Delbonis is up 49 spots to No65 in the rankings after his trip the final in Hamburg, while Ivo Karlovic stormed back into the top-100, climbing 68 spots to No87.

DAREDEVIL

Stanislas Wawrinka got his adrenaline flowing by enjoying a scenic parachute jump over the mountains in Gstaad, where he is playing this week. Sounds like the perfect warm-up, Stan!

WEEK AHEAD

Only three top-10 players are in action this week; Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka at home in Gstaad, and Richard Gasquet leads the pack in Umag. The Emirates Airline US Open Series kicks off in Atlanta, where big man John Isner is the top seed. Agnieszka Radwanska and Sam Stosur are the top two seeds in Stanford while Bojana Jovanovski is the No1 seed in Baku.

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