opinionBy Jonathan Isaiah
For years, pundits have been lauding Roger Federer's game, pooh-poohing any intimation of weakness.And yes, for all intents and purposes, the Swiss-born tennis superhero has proven himself to be, arguably, the greatest to ever hold a racket.In the last year or two, however, the 30-year-old, who first rose to the No. 1 standing in 2004, has seen a steady decline in his ranking.
In fact, he was just downgraded on the tennis chart, plummeting to No. 4 within the last 24 hours, switching positions with Andy Murray. This is all the more heart-wrenching for the Michael Jordan of tennis who has not been ranked lower then No. 3 in eight years.
For Federer the perfectionist, the word "plummet" is a suitable description for a man who has to bear the indignity of being less than the best.
His run on top of the tennis world for 287 weeks and 237 consecutive weeks-both of which still stand as formidable-has made him a lionized figure, atop the pedestal in the pantheon of legends.
Some tennis analysts may argue the soft spoken Federer's best days as a prolifically successful juggernaut are in the past, and never to be relived again, except in flashbacks.
However, with some soul-searching and the desire to improve his game-which up to this point has been cast aside by his ego-the man who seemed too good to be true on the tennis court can once again embody the epitome of tennis transcendence in 2012.
He'll Get More Aggressive
Although Federer reached the finals of the Australian and U.S. Opens this year, he hasn't won a tournament since the 2010 rendition of the "down under" open.
The jack of all trades on the tennis court has been able to get by on pure skills alone up to this point. However, father time, marriage, children and a host of other obligations have arguably chipped the invincible armor of a man who excelled at his one and only focus-to be the best at what he does.
Some contend it might not be in his genetic code, but it would behoove Federer to shout, get emotional, and play with an observable chip on his shoulder from time to time.
In recent years, he could get away with being calm and calculated, quietly analyzing his opponents' movements and stratagems.
Metaphorically speaking, tennis for the ever vigilant and pensive Federer is literally a chess game down to even the slightest nuances, subtleties and characterizations.
If the tennis genius could rest one hand under his chin while swinging his racket, he would with his usual aplomb.
That, however, has to change.
Federer needs to get angry and play with a sweltering passion, unbecoming of him to this point, but a wrinkle, if switched on, that is sure to psyche out those he's matched against.
He'll Take a Brief Sabbatical from the Game
Sometimes, no matter how talented you are, it wouldn't hurt to take a step back and walk away for a short period of time.
Removing himself from the tennis setting-which has defined his life for the last decade-can ultimately recharge the Swiss' batteries upon returning.
For the last few years, Federer has been hamstrung by nagging injuries to his back and right leg.
These ailments have been blamed personally by Roger as reasons for why he couldn't overcome certain opponents.
Furthermore, since marrying fellow tennis player Mirka Vavrinec, and having a set of twins, the former King of the court has new obligations to attend to beyond just vanquishing challengers in his profession.
Stepping away and spending some time with his loving family can not only give him that extra boost he needs in the form of love and support, but will also have the added benefit of allowing him to fully recuperate from his assortment of aches and pains.
He'll Work on His Inner Game himself
Being at the absolute pinnacle of his sport has afforded Federer a myriad of endorsements with Jura, Nike, Gillette, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex watch and Lindt, a Swiss-chocolate company.
Granted, fulfilling the role as an ambassador to all of these sponsors is, in many ways, a part of the job description of an athlete who rises to the point where he or she is in high demand.
But for the man who has professed to have never worked on fixing his weaknesses and only working on his strengths, Federer needs all the time he can get to work on his game even if it's just to polish his sharpest tools.
His sharpest asset of all is his mind. He has an uncanny ability to scour the court, make instantaneous mental adjustments, utilizing an acute vision to countermand his foe on the opposite side of the court.
With doubt slowly creeping in the last few years, the tennis great needs to commission the help of a sports psychologist to help him filter out all of the pandemonium being incited by the press, which has the habit of riding on waves of negativity often times affecting the target of its "journalism."
More than ever, Federer needs to cultivate and nurture the mind that has amassed an exceptionally high tennis IQ before it can no longer power his body to carry out the necessary actions to win.
He'll Spend More Time in the Gym
Federer must strengthen his mind then his body
If a layman were to take one gander at Federer's physique, he or she would be a tad underwhelmed, let alone surmise he is an elite tennis player.
Over the last few years, it seems like his frame has become thinner, weaker and less robust.
There are no signs of muscle mass on someone who can readily use some its benefits.
If Federer wants to win again at all costs in 2012, he needs to stop short of nothing, swallow his pride and prohibit his ego from making decisions for him.
A man resting on his laurels and being dictated to by an overblown ego is an inescapable deterrent if he is to make the necessary sacrifices in order to surmount high barriers.
After working on developing and sustaining the proper state of mind, Federer needs to hire a personal trainer who puts him on an intense physical and protein regimen.
Increased strength in his legs and arms will not only give him the extra endurance to get to stray balls, but enable him to return them in intimidating fashion.
He'll Bolster His Backhand
The man once deemed by experts and peers alike to have no blemishes in his immaculate game, is starting to unravel just enough for his opponents to capitalize on.
It's become apparent that, although Federer can claim to have pristine execution 90 percent of the time on the court, the chinks in his exterior come to the surface when he attempts drop shots, volleys and especially backhanded shots.
These weaknesses have been underscored, in particular, against power players who leave him reeling, lurching back-and-forth, off-kilter and unbalanced.
Ways to counter this would be to not wait for the ball to bounce before hitting it and to aggressively run up the court, drop shooting the ball, with enough backspin, over the net.
Most importantly, Federer needs to make it a mission to foster his feeble backhand, enabling him to quickly regain momentum while maximizing his footing for the next exchange.
For far too long, opposing players have used Federer's inefficient backhand against him, driving him away from the middle, setting him up for an easy lay just over the partition.
Saying so, however, is harder than doing so for the all-time legend who needs to reassess his will to win above and beyond the need to placate his ego.