By almost every marker, 2015 was an exceptional year for Roger Federer. The Swiss great won six titles, reached two Grand finals and the final of the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. And it was all done at an age when most players have already long hung up their racket. But there was one significant disappointment for the 34-year-old -- the failure to add an 18th Grand Slam title to his already record collection.
In both Grand Slam finals it was a similar story for the man ranked No. 3 in the world. At Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, after leveling the match by winning the second set, Federer could not maintain his surge and fell to four-set defeats to the year’s dominant performer, Novak Djokovic. While Federer had been in sensational form going into the final, the unwavering Djokovic proved too strong, as he did at the climax of the ATP World Tour Finals.
As with each Grand Slam failure in recent years, the losses brought with them hasty assessments that Federer’s last chance to win another Major title had gone by the wayside. His advancing years means one day that prediction will prove accurate. However, he provided enough evidence over the last 12 months to suggest that he may get at least one more opportunity in 2016. Federer has stressed that he has no plans to call time on his remarkable career anytime soon.
“Australia's obviously a big goal for me and after that it's going to be a long, tough year,” Federer said last week, according to ESPN. “I'm feeling fine physically and in good shape. Like I say so many times, I hope I'm still on tour for a while. There are no plans to retire yet, I don't have a definite date, even though that would make things easier to plan.”
Federer’s superb summer was fueled by a renewed commitment to attack. His innovative SABR (Sneak Attack by Roger), when stepping forward to half-volley returns, brought grabbed plenty attention, but more significant was Federer’s incredible serving. He finished the year ranked third on the ATP Tour for percentage of points on first serve, above far bigger servers like John Isner and Kevin Anderson. And in the semifinals of Wimbledon he produced one of the great serving displays of all-time when leaving Andy Murray dumbfounded.
At an age where conserving energy is a key consideration, returning to the more aggressive style tat he displayed in his early years has allowed Federer to continue to be a serious threat in the latter stages of Grand Slams. What is also clear from the schedule Federer has just released for 2016 is that he is prioritizing the big tournaments he believes he has the best chance to win.
Here is my tentative 2016 schedule. Happy holidays and thanks for all your support! _ _ ✌ pic.twitter.com/b3TtZCmYQh
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) December 17, 2015
Standing out from the calendar is that Federer will not play a single warm-up event for the French Open. Although he has still enjoyed plenty of success there, Roland Garros is the Grand Slam that Federer has had the most difficulty in winning during his career. And he would now appear to be focusing his priorities elsewhere. One of those places is the Rio Olympics. Federer has already achieved plenty of Olympic success, having won gold with Stan Wawrinka in the doubles in 2008 and taken silver in the singles last time out in London, but he is keen to deliver more medals for his country.
“Winning the silver at Wimbledon was amazing during the London Olympics,” Federer said. "I don't feel like the Rio Olympics necessarily needs to be the singles gold like everybody talks about. That's why I'm going to be playing mixed doubles with Martina Hingis, and I might also play the doubles with Stan Wawrinka. I might enter myself in all three competitions to have the most possible chances to win medals for Switzerland.”
The big question going into 2016 for Federer concerns his coaching setup. Earlier this month it was revealed that Federer’s boyhood idol Stefan Edberg was leaving the fold after two years, to be replaced by Ivan Ljubicic. A former top-five player and coach of big-serving Milos Raonic, there is reason to believe that the Croatian will help continue the aggressive approach that blossomed under Edberg. And there is cause, too, to think that Federer could well be the biggest threat once again to Djokovic at the Grand Slams, starting in Australia next month.