Another tennis tournament has come and gone in 2013, and once again Roger Federer finds himself on the outside looking in at the finals.
This time it was the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Just a few days ago, it seemed Federer was destined to face Novak Djokovic, but that was squashed after Federer suffered a semifinal upset at the hands of No. 6 Tomas Berdych.
Federer won the first set against Berdych, but dropped the last two 6-7 and 4-6.
As a result, the 31-year-old finds himself still searching for a win in 2013, as well as a finals appearance.
The Swiss star has played in three tournaments this year, including the Australian Open to kick off the new year.
Federer lost in the semifinals in Melbourne to No. 3 Andy Murray. Not long after that, he found himself eliminated in the quarterfinals of the World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam. Then came Dubai.
Surprisingly, through it all Federer has retained his No. 2 status. But that ranking has been less by his own play and more by circumstance.
No. 3 Murray has only played in two tournaments this season, and won one (the Brisbane International). His other tourney was his finals loss at the Australian Open.
Also aiding Federer's case has been the injury to No. 5 Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard saw his ranking slip after a 222-day break from the sport to rest an ailing knee.
In each of his three tournaments in 2013, Nadal has made sure to make it to the finals. He's won his last two appearances, including his most recent Mexican Open win over No. 4 David Ferrer.
None of this is to say that Federer isn't still a great tennis player.
The season is still young, and it wasn't that long ago that Federer captured the 2012 tournament in Wimbledon. And he gave a good show of it at Melbourne.
But with Rafael Nadal's eminent return to the sport's elite, Federer needs a big win, and soon.
To not make a final in 2013 is a tough pill to swallow, especially since his losses have come to players ranked No. 3, No. 39 and No. 6 respectively.
With the sport's younger players nipping at his heels, it could be just a matter of time until Federer finds himself at, or outside of, the No. 5 ranking.
If Federer hopes to retain any kind of elite status, his best opportunity will come at Indians Wells—a tournament he won last year.
A win at the BNP Paribas Open isn't even necessary, though it would certainly help. What's more important is a finals appearance, or at the least a victory over another one of the Big Four.
If Federer can achieve either of those feats, he may live for a little bit longer in the top three. But if he can't, his ranking could be in for quite the tumble.
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