Roger Federer's fourth round exit to Spaniard Tommy Robredo at the US Open should no longer be considered a surprise, writes GMS Academy member Will Ridgard.
It's clear to see that this once outrageously gifted tennis ace who has enjoyed a glittering career is now a distant shadow of his former self and no longer the same force as he once was.
Off the pace, seemingly disinterested and with a catalogue of basic errors that no-one has ever seen from the Swiss legend, Federer lost in three straight sets to Robredo yesterday - a player he has comfortably beaten throughout his career.
Robredo isn't a bad player by any stretch of the imagination but is a player that Federer should and previously has beaten with ease. Of the previous 10 meetings between the pair, Federer has won all 10 and comfortably - before yesterday's encounter Robredo only had three sets to show for his past efforts.
What's confirmed Federer's downfall is that this early-round exit has come on the back of another stunning loss to world number 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky in round two at his beloved Wimbledon, where he has graced the courts repeatedly year after year.
A fans' favourite whose presence and dominance in the game instantly demands respect from everyone involved in the sport, Federer is a God of tennis and often regarded as the greatest tennis player ever.
Federer's dominance has been inspiring. Between Wimbledon 2003 and the Australian Open in 2010, Federer won 16 of a possible 27 Grand Slam titles, an incredible record.
But he has now won just one of the last 15 - last year's Wimbledon final against a certain Andy Murray.
It is hard to accept that someone with such elegance on the court along with his gentlemanly personality is past his best but unfortunately that is the case.
Age has finally caught up with the 32-year-old, who will now more often than not be referred to as 'the old master' in the rest of his tennis career - however long that might be.
That, doubled with the fact that younger, fitter, and ever-improving players have caught him up has led to the inevitable decline that no-one wanted to see.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are some way in front of the seven-time Wimbledon champion now and with age on their side, they look like they can dominate and duel the men's game for many years to come. There's also a man called Rafael Nadal competing as well.
It's a well-known fact that Federer had recently reached every Grand Slam quarter-final (at least) for nine years in a row, a statistic much-like Arsenal's record in the Champions League, but, now the Swiss legend has missed out on the last two and in devastating fashion.
2013 is the first year since 2002, when Federer was just coming onto the major tournament scene, that he has failed to reach a Grand Slam final.
Tennis players rarely quit when at the top of their game though and Federer loves the sport too much to stop just yet.
But it must be the most frustrating thing in the world for Federer to no longer have the same impact as he has had previously.
Other tennis players such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi bowed out of the game in the same way - prolonging their professional careers for a sport they adore for as long as possible.
Only time will tell when the much-loved Swiss hangs up his racquet, but I, for one certainly hope it's not the end but feel it could well be.
We have seen signs in recent years of a slight downfall in the Swiss's game and opinions have been high in relation to this, but such bruising and painful successive Grand Slam defeats in his two favourite tournaments as well suggests that this could well be the end of the great man.
Mind you, if he keeps going which I'm sure he will do, he could well be an outside bet to surprise us all and pop up to add another Grand Slam title to his glittering trophy cabinet.
Although this appears to be a fading dream as tournament after tournament passes by, we can only hope can't we? One last SW19 triumph please, Roger!
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