An unhappy 30th birthday for Federer?


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The most
significant moment of the tennis week did not take place on court.

Robin Haase
may have won his first ATP tour title in Kitzbuhel while Radek Stepanek triumphed
in Washington - but what mattered most to the sport comes today, as Roger
Federer celebrates his 30th birthday.

First, the
formalities: happy birthday Roger. Tramlines hopes you have a smashing (pun intentional) day.

Now, the
bad news.

Thirty is not a
good number for a male tennis player.

more than just about any other sport, is a young man's game. Once into the
thirties, the chances of winning a Grand Slam depreciate rapidly. Tricenarians
have won just nine Grand Slams since 1973, out of a possible 119.  

Scratch a
little deeper, and those numbers look more depressing still for Federer.

Three of
those titles (Andre Agassi in the 2001 and 2003 Australian Opens, Pete Sampras
at the US Open in 2002) belong to players who, great though they were, were
wringing the last drops out of their talent at a time when the rest of the
field lacked strength and depth.  Agassi
beat honest triers Arnaud Clement and Rainer Schuettler for those Aussie Opens.
In 2002, Sampras beat another thirty-something - Agassi - in the Flushing
Meadow final.

does not have that luxury. He is faced by Rafael Nadal, with 10 Slams to
his name and a 17-8 winning record against the Swiss. And 25-year-old Nadal, theoretically
at the peak of his powers, is not even the best player in the world at present.

Of course,
tennis fans have watched the window of opportunity for Federer to win Grand
Slams closing for some time.

The Swiss
champion's defenders will point to his economical style of play, something
which may have helped prolong his career. They will bring up the exceptional achievements
of the past as an argument that he can continue to produce abnormally good
results in the future. They will remind you that having fallen from the world number one spot in 2008, he then regained it from Nadal in 2009.

But with just the one victory on tour this year at the very start of January, and faced with the probability of having
to beat two out of three from Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in
successive matches to change that, the task becomes more daunting with every
passing week - and more so with every birthday cake Mirka bakes him.

Federer, to
his mind, is evidently not finished. As you can see in his birthday message
(sounds like the sort of thing the Queen would broadcast, but there you go), he
says he is eagerly looking forward to the Rogers Cup in Montreal - and who is
Tramlines to doubt it?

UK users can watch Federer's birthday message by clicking below

And as with
any landmark, it is a great opportunity to look back as well as forward. What
Federer achieved in the last 10 years - 16 Grand Slams, five and a half years
as world number one, more records than you can swing a racquet at - already
occupies its rightful place in the annals of the sport. He's a living legend of
the game - respected by all, loved by most, and cheered across the continents.

discussion about whether he can win a Grand Slam at all at his age only serves
to underscore his talent - it's not a discussion had all too often about, for
instance, Lleyton Hewitt, who is only a handful of months older.

Federer would argue that his birthday wasn't the most significant event on
the men's tour this week anyhow. Perhaps, if asked, he'd plump for Stepanek
sealing his aforementioned triumph in Washington.

Stepanek is
just three months short of 33 - and he still had enough energy left over to do 'the worm' in

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What will Federer achieve in his thirties? Let Tramlines know your predictions for the rest of the Swiss star's career in the comments section below!


TWEET OF THE WEEK:  Not so much a Tweet as a plug - Rafael Nadal has joined Twitter. To get updates on exciting moments in the left-hander's life in two languages, such as going for practice with Juan Monaco and thanking the Grand Slams for their support, you need look no further.

SNAP OF THE WEEK: What? You mean a Czech veteran doing 'the worm' wasn't enough? OK: here he is inexplicably wearing the chap on the left's hat...

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