First of all, make no mistake about it, Federer is still the undisputed No. 3 player in the world. No question about it! But therein lies part of the problem. After so many years of dominance seeing Federer at No. 3 is like seeing a mere mortal at No. 100. But this is the new reality for Federer. At 29, he has to settle for the fact that there are two players who are officially (better, stronger, faster) than him.
So far in 2011, Federer has an impressive 24-5 match record BUT he is 0-3 against World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and 0-1 against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal. Losing to the No. 1 and No. 2 players in the world, who are much younger than him, has (kinda) become the norm these days as nobody expected Federer to be virtually unbeatable forever. Sooner or later younger blood was going to start to take the reigns, as has happened.
His other loss in 2011 came this past week at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters to World No. 8 Jurgen Melzer. Prior to this loss, Federer had been 3-0 against Melzer in his career. So it's this loss that has raised a red flag because being 0-4 against Nadal and Djokovic has become (sort of) acceptable but losing to anyone else kinda makes us think is this the beginning of the end?
In Federer's defense, he is 24-0 against players outside the Top 10, so he's still far from being just an average player. But is 0-5 record against Top 10 players does make us ask ourselves-- is he human after all?
And saying he's the THIRD best player, after all these years of supremacy, is going to take time to get used to.