Tennis great Roger Federer is upset at Wimbledon. Is this the year of the underdog?

Looks like it’s a week for tennis upsets. Roger Federer was defeated by Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Centre Court in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, just two days after Serena and Venus Williams were knocked off the court by less experienced opponents. If Rafael Nadal goes down in the semifinals, it’ll officially become the year of the upstarts.

Is there some sort of underdog effect going on? It sure seems like it, though as I blogged earlier this week, studies show that front-runners are usually more motivated to win. That intuitively makes sense: They have more to lose than their opponents. Underdogs do often have more popular support, however, as this 2011 study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows.

So is Federer just losing his edge as younger players enter the field? He doesn’t seem to think so. And in any case, he might be comforted by a 2011 PLoS ONE study that ranked him as the seventh best tennis player of all time, above Pete Sampras (#8), Nadal (#24) and Andy Roddick (#29) too.

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