Just how far Roger Federer has fallen off pace against his main rivals is niftily reflected on the points board the ATP maintains to determine its top eight for the season-ending Masters.
The Swiss, seventh in the ‘Race to London’, as it’s called, is struggling to get entry into a tournament, which many recognise as the ‘fifth’ Grand Slam, he’s dominated for the past decade - a record six titles from eight finals.
In an attempt to help him get over the line, the ATP tournament in Vienna has reserved a wildcard for Federer in case he does not have enough points to make the cut for the season finale.Herwig Straka, tournament director of the Vienna ATP event, confirmed this, before adding: "But probably every tournament around the globe would keep a wildcard for Roger."
It is a measure of not just how Federer has declined this past season but also of how the tennis world is rallying to cushion the fall of one of its most precocious talents.
Currently, Federer has a mere 3005 points from 15 tournaments this year, as opposed to 11,015 for Rafael Nadal, 8110 for Novak Djokovic and 5805 for Andy Murray — the three players who have already booked their berths.
And he may well have to wrestle Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka (2925 points), Richard Gasquet (2765), both of whom made the semifinals at the US Open, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2455) for the final few spots.
Though Vienna is only a 250 event, the lowest in the rung of ATP tournaments, he may benefit from the knowledge that he has won there twice and that it is an indoor hard court event, a surface Federer has most enjoyed in the past couple of years.
One of the Federer’s biggest strengths through his career has been his scheduling. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has been able to stack up results and records consistently without overburdening his body.
Tough times ahead
But Federer’s hand may be forced this time.
As per his current schedule, he has three tournaments — the Shanghai Masters, Basel ATP and Paris Masters, in which to rack up the points.
Having sailed through into the Tour Finals for the past decade, veteran Federer may now get a feel of life in the mortal zone at the sticky end of the season.