Swiss tennis star Roger Federer confident of bouncing back to form
Ace may be out of the 'Big Four' but is confident of being able to bounce back
Roger Federer insists he can defy his advancing years but increasingly regular defeats have pushed him out of the "Big Four" in tennis and tell their own story of decline.
Thursday's third-round defeat at the Shanghai Masters for the world No7 was in some ways notable for its lack of shock value.
Expectations have waned. There is no longer the confidence that Federer, who has amassed 77 titles and nearly US$80 million in prize money, will dig deep and produce the magic when he needs it most.
Following his defeat by Gael Monfils, ranked 42nd in the world, Federer, with just one title to his name this year, spoke about his hopes for a strong end to the season.
He refused to punish himself even though he is in serious danger of missing out on next month's eight-man, end-of-season World Tour Finals, which he has won a record six times.
"It's pretty simple - you just keep on working hard, make sure that you get back on winning ways, then you become confident again, sort of get there," he said. "It's just important not to worry too much, to be honest. Obviously, I might get tougher draws as we move along with my ranking not being in the top four any more. But that's OK."
Novak Djokovic, while acknowledging that the Swiss has not played his best tennis over the past year, is wary of writing him off. "He's Federer. He's the top grand slam winner in history. Whenever he plays, wherever he plays, he's always in the spotlight, he's always the man to beat," said the Serb.
"This is fact, and it's going to stay that way as long as he's going to play tennis."
But Federer, who has struggled with back problems this year, has won just one of his past five matches against Spaniard Rafael Nadal in an increasingly lopsided rivalry, and has endured high-profile defeats at the hands of both Djokovic and Scot Andy Murray.
Regardless of the swirling debate over his future, it is clear that for Federer, talk of long-term decline is premature.
"My mindset now is, OK, next year is going to be a great year again where I'm not going to have that many points to defend, especially at some very key moments where I consider myself a favourite," he said before his opener in Shanghai. "For that reason I'm really looking forward to 2014 already."