To imagine tennis legend Roger Federer not winning one grand slam this year is quite remarkable.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner has had a nightmare year, and the question is how long can Federer keep going?

He suffered his latest setback on Thursday, losing in the Shanghai Masters to France's Gael Monfils in the third round, and the Swiss is struggling to qualify for  the ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 in November, where he has appeared for the last 12 consecutive years.

Everyone knows that the 32-year-old is nearing the end of his illustrious career, and with the three best players in the world, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray dominating the slams, sadly, Federer simply cannot keep up at the top any more. 

And except for this year's Australian Open, where he lost to Murray in the semi-finals, Federer has exited the grand slams in the early rounds, to lower ranked players. 

At Wimbledon, he went down to 116th ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky, in only the second round.

At the US Open, he exited in the fourth round to Tommy Robredo, with Federer making 43 unforced errors in the match.

Everyone can have a year to forget, but unfortunately for Federer, he might not have a year to remember in his career again. 

Quite simply, Murray, Djokovic and Nadal are playing better than Federer. They are younger and fitter than the multi-record smasher, and as long as those three are on top of their game, it looks unlikely that Federer will win another Grand Slam.

But he will not want to go out on a miserable year, and he will surely be determined to improve his game in 2014. But if he fails to win a grand slam in the next 12 months, then it looks likely the curtain will fall on arguably the greatest tennis player ever.

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