Many with an interest in tennis are sounding the distress alarms regarding Roger Federer's career, but the 31-year-old still has plenty of season left to turn his fortunes around.
The quest to do that begins in Hamburg July 15 at the bet-at-home Open—the German Tennis Championships. That is where Federer will look to add to his lone singles title of the 2013 campaign against what should be a formidable field of competitors.
Federer hasn't played the German Championships in five years, where he last lost to Rafael Nadal in the final.
However, the 17-time Grand Slam winner has won four previous titles at the ATP World Tour 500 event, which is why he referred to great memories at the venue when he announced he would play there on Twitter:
The surface may be clay, but Federer's game on even his least preferred surface at his juncture in his career is better than most.
Perception that Federer is on the decline has been prevalent this year due to his lack of victories and uncharacteristically early exits from Grand Slam events.
Perhaps the detractors need to pump the brakes at least a little bit, considering the U.S. Open is still to play and that Federer has expanded his schedule to get his game "back on track" by his uniquely high standards.
It did take Andy Murray five sets to get by Federer at the Australian Open in the semifinals to kick things off, and he's significantly improved over the past year or so. That was evident when Murray disposed of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets to win the recent Wimbledon Championships.
At some point, with all the talent in the sport of tennis, it was bound to happen that Federer would have somewhat of a letdown.
That didn't even really occur at the French Open, where clay is historically Federer's "worst" surface. White-hot, physically gifted France native Jo-Wilfried Tsonga simply overwhelmed him at Roland Garros in the quarterfinals.
Federer had still reached his 36th consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal in Paris, and though he was off that day, not enough credit was given to the weight of expectations Tsonga faced—nor how well Tsonga played in his own right.
That whopping 36 quarterfinals streak was snapped at Wimbledon, but it wasn't as if Federer played poorly at the All England Club. Sergiy Stakhovsky pulled the massive upset on Federer in Round 2 by simply playing magnificent tennis.
The Ukrainian upstart smashed 72 winners to just 17 unforced errors, while Federer's totals in the same respective categories were 57 and 13.
Now that Federer's prior apparent, lackluster efforts have been defended, let's shift the focus back to Hamburg.
It remains to be seen how the seeding will shake out. Having said that, it's very unlikely Federer won't be the No. 1 in this tournament. That doesn't mean it will be void of challenges, though.
Tommy Haas is experiencing an incredible career resurgence at age 35 and will be a tough finals opponent, should the draw shake out that way. Plus, Federer might play Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz, a 6'8" power player who is one of the game's fastest rising stars.
Gilles Simon, Nicolas Almagro, defending champion Juan Monaco and even Alexandr Dolgopolov—who pushed world No. 4 David Ferrer to five sets at Wimbledon—should all be stiff tests, should Federer face any of them.
Considering the all-time greatness Federer possesses and the obvious, legendary competitiveness he possesses, though, he should emerge victorious.
If not, then it might be time to hit the panic button on arguably the greatest player of all time.