Mats Wilander believes conditions will need to be perfect for Roger Federer is to add to his record-breaking haul of 20 Grand Slam titles, as he suggests the 37-year-old legend is a fading force at the top of the game.
Federer’s defence of his Australian Open crown ended with a shock defeat against rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, with Wilander telling Tennis365.com that the Swiss maestro is now starting to show signs of weakness at the back end of his career.
“We thought this was going to be the best chance for him to win a major until we saw how slow the balls are out here and they’ve made a huge difference,” Wilander told us. “He needs the perfect conditions to be a threat to win a Slam, and that could be at Wimbledon, or could be at the US Open, but to me it’s all starting to depend on conditions.
“I don’t think he can hang with the other guys, for seven matches, playing high-percentage tennis. High-percentage choices maybe, by moving forwards, ripping shots and taking the ball early, but in terms of keeping the ball in play and defending, those days I think are over.”
Wilander believes Federer will try to continue playing through to next year’s Olympics, as he backed his decision to play the clay-court season in 2019 after skipping that section of the calendar for the last few years.
“Not playing on clay last year was an obvious mistake because he lost at Wimbledon in a tight match and would’ve benefitted from more match practice,” adds Wilander.
“2020 is a season that’s definitely on his calendar because of the Olympics and I think he’s building now to be at his very best in the only event he hasn’t won. I think playing the clay season is more about being better and improving.
“During the match at Wimbledon against Kevin Anderson last year, he was tense and nervous so clearly there are areas he feels he needs to fix to help him win Wimbledon. Playing two weeks on clay is going to help him, big time. It’s good for the game, it’s a huge void when he’s not there and the fact that he’s making these decisions now and plans his calendar. It worked in 2017 but it didn’t work last year.”
Meanwhile, Federer is set for a big rankings drop after his early exit at the Australian Open, with the former world No 1 set to be ranked down in sixth place when the ATP rankings are released next Monday.
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