Federer out of French Open; will he win another Grand Slam?

Roger Federer will miss his first Grand Slam since 1999, another step in the steady decline of one of the sport's greats.

The winner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles said he is not fully recovered from a back injury suffered during practice at the Madrid Open earlier this month. Federer announced his decision via Facebook, saying he wanted to avoid taking "unnecessary risk" by playing before he feels like he is 100 percent healthy.

Federer has struggled to stay healthy this season, having suffered a meniscus tear that required surgery in early February. After reaching the Australian Open semifinals, Federer has played in just five matches in 2016.

Roger Federer (REUTERS)
Roger Federer (REUTERS)

The 34-year-old has made changes to his coaching staff and his equipment in recent years, but regardless of whatever tweaks he makes, it's clear that barring a tremendous run, Federer's days of winning Grand Slams are likely behind him.

Now, this is not to say that Federer is completely washed up. He won five tournaments in 2015 and finished runner up at last year's Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. But, Federer's injuries and the continued dominance of younger players like current No. 1 Novak Djokovic make Federer's chances of adding to his Grand Slam look slimmer and slimmer by the day.

Federer's last Grand Slam victory came in 2012 at Wimbledon, when he defeated current world No. 2 Andy Murray. Since then, he's continually fallen short. After failing to reach a Grand Slam final in 2013, the world's longest-reigning No. 1 lost out to Djokovic in consecutive Wimbledon finals and at the 2015 U.S. Open.

Djokovic has outclassed Federer in six of their last nine matchups and now leads their overall head-to-head battles 23-22.

Despite his latest injury, Federer said he plans to return to the court in time for Wimbledon. Federer has played well at the All-England Club, with seven titles to his name, but hoisting the trophy after this latest setback is a tall order.

According to a new ESPN poll, tennis pros are split on Federer's future. Forty-eight percent of the ATP and WTA players anonymously surveyed said they think he'll win another Grand Slam title, while 51.6 percent said they think his count will stop at 17.

So, while an 18th Grand Slam title is not unthinkable, at least in the mind of Federer's competitors, his advanced age and nagging injuries would make the feat nothing short of miraculous.