Roger Federer (Player Profile) is currently in the tail-end of what is arguably his worst season on the tour in the past decade. He has only won one title this season (Halle) and only reached the finals of two other events in 2013. He failed to capture a single Grand Slam title and even exited two of the Slams before the quarter-final stage, which had not occurred since 2004. Where he had regained the No.1 ranking in July of 2012, he plummeted to No. 7 throughout this season as he failed to defend any points on the tour. Over the past couple of weeks, he has once again shown signs of life and a promising omen for things to come in 2014.
Of the 12 players to topple the 17-time Grand Slam champion this season, 6 of them ranked outside the top 10 and are not generally the names you would expect to hold victories over Roger.
Here is a list of all twelve men in discussion:
Andy Murray (Australian Open)
Federer began his 2013 season by reaching his 10th consecutive Australian Open semi-final, where he defeated Benoit Paire, Bernard Tomic, Milos Raonic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before losing to eventual runner-up Andy Murray. It was a hard fought five-set battle, where Federer twice recovered from a set down to even the score but was unable to control the fifth set and eventually lost 4-6, 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(2), 2-6. The win extended Murray’s lead in the head-to-head series to 11-9 and they are yet to meet again on the ATP tour.
Julien Benneteau (Rotterdam)
Three weeks removed from the Australian Open, Federer arrived in Rotterdam, where troubling signs would being to appear when he would lose in the quarter-final to French no. 3 Julien Benneteau. The Frenchman’s only prior win over the former World no. 1 was four years prior in Paris yet that was also on an indoor hard court, which surprisingly puts him at 2-1 lead over Federer in hard court matches. The Swiss no. 1 would later redeem himself in with a dominant win over Benneteau in the French Open but while many might not have seen the loss in Rotterdam as a troubling one, it was certainly the beginning of a bad stretch that would span the entire season.
Tomas Berdych (Dubai Open)
Federer entered the Dubai Open with a fantastic record at the tournament, having won the event five times in eight attempts up to that point and had reached the finals in seven of those events, losing only to Rafael Nadal (2006) and Novak Djokovic (2011). Federer cruised through his first three matches but once he faced top 10 competition in Tomas Berdych, he was unable to carry forth the momentum and lost 6-3, 6-7(8), 4-6 in the semi-finals. It was just the sixth time that Berdych defeated the Swiss no. 1 and the third time in five consecutive encounters dating back to 2011.
Kei Nishikori (Madrid Masters)
Roger began his clay court season in disappointing fashion and would lose just his second match on the red clay to Kei Nishikori in the Madrid Masters. It was the Japanese no.1’s first victory over Federer and brought their head-to-head record to 1-1. Following his milestone win over the then-no. 2 ranked Federer, Nishikori would lose to world no. 113 Pablo Andujar in the following round.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Roland Garros)
Another one of the six top 10 players to defeat Federer this year is French no.1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The win came in the quarter-finals of the French Open, which was Federer’s earliest exit from the tournament since 2010, when he lost to Robin Soderling. The contest was far from competitive as Tsonga would win the match in straight sets. It was a vastly different performance than their earlier meeting at the Australian Open, where Federer bested the Frenchman 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-3 to reach the semi-finals. The win brought their head-to-head record at 9-4 for Roger.
Sergiy Stakhovsky (Wimbledon)
Easily the most shocking of all of Federer’s loses this season was his stunning second round exit to Ukranian qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky. It was a baffling loss considering the seven-time Wimbleon champ was coming off his first Tour title of the season in Halle and followed it up with a staggering loss to a player ranked 114 places below him. Stakhovsky placed a marvellous serve-and-volley game that kept the Swiss star stumbling around the court dazed and confused. It was Federer’s earliest exit from the Championships in eleven years, when he lost in the opening round in 2002.
Interesting fact: Stakhovsky would not win another match on the ATP World Tour until after the US Open, when he would beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco. He is 2-9 on the in ATP competition since that shocking upset win.
Federico Delbonis (Hamburg)
Following his short stay at SW19, Federer announced that he would be competing in both Hambury and Gstaad to test a new racquet model with a larger frame. While the highest ranked opponent he encountered in the draw was ranked at no. 45, Federer was forced to eek out three set wins twice before losing in straight sets to Federico Delbonis. It was a messy performance from Federer, who commit far more errors than were expected of him and was unable to get his serve in motion and was hence unable to find any rhythm throughout the match.
Daniel Brands (Gstaad)
While Germany’s Daniel Brands was unsuccessful in his first attempt to topple Federer in Hamburg, he succeeded in his second attempt, this time in the opening round in Gstaad. It was Federer’s first time playing the event since he last won the title in 2004. It was a frustrating performance for fans to watch as it appeared as if an entirely different person was playing instead of one of the greatest players of all time. For the first time in far too long, Roger had picked up back-to-back losses to players ranked outside the top 50 at the time. Following the loss, the Swiss star would abandon the ambitious attempt to switch racquets and would not compete until the Cincinnati Masters several weeks later.
Rafael Nadal (Indian Wells, Rome, Cincinnati)
Nadal is the only player on the tour with three wins over Federer this season. All were decent efforts from the Swiss, which is remarkable considering their contrasting trajectories throughout the 2013 season, yet the riveting rivalry continued from where they last left off when they met in the quarter-finals of the Indian Wells event. Federer was only able to win six games in that match and four games in their Rome final but that was put off to Nadal’s absolute dominance (particularly on red clay). When they met for the third time this year in the Cincinnati quarter-finals, it was during Roger’s lowest period but he managed to roll back the years and play one of his better matches with Nadal in recent memory, even threatening to turn the tides at several points during the match. It was their only three (or more) sets encounter since the 2012 Australian Open. Nadal leads the overall head-to-head 21-10 over Federer.
Tommy Robredo (US Open)
The losses continued to pile up for Federer as he would fail to reach the quarter-final of the US Open for the first time in a decade. Not only did he exit earlier than expected, he lost to World No. 18 Tommy Robredo, after holding a perfect 10-0 record against the Spaniard. It was another unsettling loss that brought about murmurs of a retirement from disgruntled fans that were unable to find a reason for Federer’s all-too-sudden fall from grace.
Gael Monfils (Shanghai)
The Dazzling Frenchman was another one of the six players outside of the top 10 to defeat Roger this season. The win was an impressive one for the Frenchman and came in the third round of the Shanghai Masters event following the US Open. The win brought their head-to-head record to 6-2 and marks Monfils’s second win over Federer on the ATP tour. He went on to face Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals and while he did not leave victorious, he gave the World No. 2 all he could handle before so.
Juan Martin del Potro (Basel)
Following a disappointing season full of unexpected losses Federer had become a bundle of nerves and was clearly lacking the confidence that he once had in abundance. When he arrived in Basel, many expected much of the same from the local star but that was not the case. Federer appeared motivated and was allowing his old self to shine through at certain points of the matches. While he struggled slightly in the early going against Denis Istomin, Federer proved that he is more than capable of dispatching budding talents such as Grigor Dimitrov and Vasek Pospisil, before arriving in his eighth consecutive final in Basel. In the final, he encountered the ‘Tower of Tandil’ Juan Martin del Potro, who had defeated him in the 2012 final to lift the trophy for the first time. In a repeat of last year’s final, the two competitors went another three thrilling sets on Swiss soil but ended with Del Potro breaking ahead early in the third set and hanging onto that lead to close out the match. The lose put Federer at 0-3 against Del Potro since their 2012 Basel Final but he would redeem himself the following week, when he would defeat del-Potro to reach the semi-finals in Paris.
Novak Djokovic (Paris Masters)
The final man to topple Federer is also the man who first meets him in the group stage of the World Tour Finals this afternoon. The match comes less than four days following their last encounter in the semi-finals in Paris, where Novak rallied from a set and a break down to pull off a trademark comeback late in the match. While Federer’s quality of play dropped drastically in the third set, it was still a fantastic showing from the former no. 1 as he was serving better than he did for the majority of the year and was able to find the confidence to produce shots we had almost forgotten he was capable of. Federer still leads the head-to-head 16-14 but Djokovic has been able to bridge the gap recently as he holds wins in four of their last six meetings. He went on to win the Paris title and become the 15th player to win 40 ATP Tour titles in his career.