12/19/2012 08:37 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2012

Roger Federer 2013 Outlook: What's Next For The ATP No. 2?

By Peter Bodo,

There isn’t anything this man hasn’t done, and while 2012 may not have been Federer's greatest year statistically, it was the period when he showed that no expectations are too high to overcome. At 31, Federer won six titles and finished the year at 71-12, giving him the same number of losses as Novak Djokovic, who was 75-12. And Federer upset Djokovic at Wimbledon, then stripped him of the No. 1 ranking. Federer held that top honor for nearly the rest of the season.

Given that Federer is the all-time leader in Grand Slam singles titles (17 and counting), you might think that he’d be ready to kick back and smell the roses. But the thing you have to understand about The Mighty Fed is that tennis isn’t a grind for him; he’s not in it to make the most of his best years, earn a king’s ransom, and then bask in his own supreme swellness.

No, Federer plays tennis because that’s what he loves to do, and he not only understands that tennis is who and what he is, he’s utterly at peace with it. Nay, he thrives on it. That’s a valuable lesson that a number of great champions never learned, which may be why none of them have ever been quite as great as Federer.

Best Case Scenario: With this guy, a calendar-year Grand Slam? Okay, that may be a little far-fetched, given the quality of the competition these days and Federer’s age. But he has shown no real sign of falling off the pace set by his rivals, so it would be perverse not to give him the benefit of the doubt. His best shot at major No. 18 will be at Wimbledon.

Worst Case Scenario: Federer abandons his wife and kids, and runs off with a waitress from the Basel Hooter’s. Then he blows all his money on a terrible investment and ends up broke. When you go to your local Starbucks for a cup of coffee sometime next October, he’s sitting out front with a tin cup and a sign: “Will Play Tennis for Food.”

Australian Open Outlook: Would you believe that Federer hasn’t lost before the semis—yes, the semis—of this tournament since 2003? That’s a remarkable record, but we all know you can’t cheat time. At Federer’s age, the heat and grueling nature of five-set (no tiebreaker) tennis will be a significant obstacle because of the mental stamina it demands of a guy with a lot of mileage on his odometer.

Our What's Next? series looks at every player who finished in the ATP or WTA Top 10 this season, and considers their future in three different ways.