Roger Federer is set to kick off his 2013 US Open campaign tonight after the completion of the Serena Williams vs. Francesca Schiavone match. For anyone that hasn't already heard the hubbub, Federer is entering the tournament seeded 7th—his lowest seeding since 2002. Federer's first few rounds still look pretty straightforward and he'll open against 62nd ranked Grega Zemlja.
Zemlja's no slouch, but he doesn't seem to pose much of a threat to the 5-time US Open champ. Federer and Zemlja have faced-off twice (once in 2012 and once in 2013) and both have been easy, straight sets wins for the Swiss. Daniel Evans' surprising upset of 11th seed Kei Nishikori earlier today has made Federer's road look even easier on paper. In any case, things should get significantly tougher for Federer if he reaches the quarterfinals—his lower-than-usual seeding and the luck of the draw have landed him in the same quarter as Nadal, putting the men in line for their first ever meeting in New York if they can both win through.
To be honest, though, I'm not writing to analyze Federer's road through the tournament. The fact is that Federer hasn't seemed like his old self this year and the spate of recent retirement announcements has got me feeling a little nostalgic.
I'm actually writing to encourage everyone to really, really take some extra time and enjoy watching the Swiss maestro work his magic on the court. I know Federer gets a little prickly when people ask him about the 'R'-word and from the sounds of it, he's not ready to throw in the towel just yet—which is good news for the game and the fans. Even so, Roger's not going to be around forever. Before you know it, he'll sail off into the sunset and you'll only be able to see his mastery in the video archives.
At advanced tennis age of 32, Federer is without a doubt one of the game's elder statesman. He's struggling with a back injury and his 2nd round exit at Wimbledon represents his worst Slam result since 2003. I could see Federer hanging around and playing top-20 or maybe top-10 tennis for a few more years, but he's certainly got nothing left to prove and I'm not sure he's willing to hang around just for the sake of doing so.
Of course, I don't presume to speak for Federer and I'm not even going to hazard a guess at when he will retire. He's the only one that has any idea when time will come, and I'm sure he'll handle it with the same class as he's handled his whole career. I don't know if Federer's the greatest of all-time or not but I've definitely enjoyed watching him bring the game to a whole new level. I hope he's still got a gem or two left before the end. I know I'm going to really make an effort to soak up every last point of inspired tennis by the Swiss master and I hope everyone else has the same opportunity because—like it or not—the game's just not going to be the same without him someday.
Roger Federer plays with the Wilson Pro Staff 90 BLX racquet.