RogerFedereris a 34-year-old father of not one, but two sets of twins, and hasn’t been to the finals of the U.S. Open since 2009.
The Swiss Maestrocaptured the last of his 17 Grand Slam singles titles back at Wimbledon in 2012.
Yet whenFederertakes the court on Tuesday in Flushing Meadows for his first-round match againstLeonardo Mayer, the No. 2 seed should be brimming with confidence about the chances of capturing his18thmajor title during this fortnight.
Federer, who won five straight titles in Queen from 2004-08,is coming off winning the title onhardcourtsat the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, where he served brilliantly and attacked the net fearlessly en route to beating Andy Murray and NovakDjokovicin back-to-back matches in the semifinals and final. Overall he is 21-2 (.913) with three titles onhardcourtsin 2015.
“He played a fantasticweek there [in Cincinnati],”Djokovic, the No. 1 seed at the Open, said ofFederer. “I still see him as one of the best players in the world, undoubtedly. He’s proven that, he’s No. 2 in the world. He’s played the Wimbledon final. He’s winning big events. He’s still challenging everybody he’s facing on the court. I always see him as one of the favorites everywhere he goes.”
MarinCilic, who crushedFedererin straight sets in the semifinals last year en route to the U.S. championship, agrees.
“Roger is always going to be a contender here and at any Grand Slam,”Cilicsaid. “I think especially the way he was playing in Cincinnati, I think it’s great for everybody to see.”
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JohnMcEnroe, a four-time U.S. Open champ, wondered Monday on ESPN whetherFederercould still bring it for seven matches in a Grand Slam.
“The 34-year-oldFederer, he’s playing incredible tennis,”McEnroesaid. “You can see, best-of-3 [sets], he can still beat anybody. The question is seven matches, best-of-5.”
PeteSampras, who won the last of his14 Grand Slam titles at31 at the 2002 U.S. Open, believesFederercan still win an18thmajor championship. IfFedererdoes so at the Open, he would be the third-oldest man in the Open Era to win a major.
“I think he’s playing well, he’s fit, he hits the ball great, he’s doing everything that he’s been doing for years,”Samprassaid recently.
“It is tougher as you get older and now Novak and Murray, they’re in their prime now.I think for Roger to win, things need to fall into place. I think if he has to play Murray,Djokovic, thenRafain one week or back-to-back, it gets more difficult.
“Wimbledon I think is his best chance, but the U.S. Open he’s won there five times, he knows what he’s doing. I think he’s got a good shot, but I think obviously Novak is the man to beat.”
IfFederergets past Mayer, he would face MarcosBaghdatisor SteveDarcisin the second round, with big serving American JohnIsnerand IvoKarlovicpotential Round of 16 opponents. Murray, French Open champion StanWawrinkaand TomasBerdychalso loom in his half of the draw.
Yet because of agraceful and fluid style of play that makes it seem at times as if he’s floating above the court,Federer’sgame has not takena heavy toll on his body.
His long-time rival RafaelNadal, who plays a much more brutish and physical style, appears to be breaking down at the age of 29.Nadalis drawn to meetDjokovicin the quarterfinals here, which could make for a fascinating encounter.
Under the guidance of his coach Stefan Edberg, a serve-and-volleyer who won six majors including the U.S. Open in 1991-92,Federeris attacking the net more late in his career, trying to end the points more quickly, somethinghe needs to do to avoid getting into baseline slugfests with the likes of Murray (his potential semifinal opponent) andDjokovic(his potential rival in the final).
“I had to adjust my game accordingly,”Federersaid.
“Mygame’s been going very well. I think my backhand has improved, with having a bigger racket head. .. I think my volleying has been very good and very proactive, going forward, and I think my serve has been unbelievable lately, so it’s clearly very important that that keeps working, because it’s the base of all things. My game is usually great when I move well, which I did well in Cincinnati, so that’s very good going into the Open.”
Federer’slatest trick in Cincinnati was to stand extremelyclose to the service line on the opponent’s second serve andthen rush into the net quickly.
“Credit to him for doing that and figuring out ways to adjust his game and come to the net and win that match,”Djokovicsaid. “That’s what he’s done. He deserved to win in the finals of Cincinnati. No question about it. It’s [up to] me and the others to respond. That is what is so special about the rivalries. We always have taken the best out of each other and make each other improve and evolve as players and get our game to another level.”
WhetherFederercan take his game to the level he needs to win an18thmajor remains to be seen, but the Swiss Maestro certainly has reason to feelconfident.
Follow Adam Zagoria on Twitter @AdamZagoria for updates throughout the U.S. Open.