When Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray in this year's Wimbledon final—his 17th Grand Slam singles title—it was a not-so-subtle reminder that Federer is still the greatest male tennis player that ever lived. He also proved that, at 31, he's still a legitimate threat to add to his all-time record for men's singles Grand Slam titles.
Some cynics may be inclined to slightly discredit Federer's Wimbledon victory by pointing out that the win came on grass. But he defeated the world's current best male player, Novak Djokovic, in the semifinals on his way to reclaiming the official No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings.
For those who felt that Federer simply caught lightning in a bottle at the All England Club, he again dispatched Djokovic in the finals of this past weekend's Western & Southern Open championship in Cincinnati—his record fifth title at the event—in a victory that may have foreshadowed Federer's chances at next week's U.S. Open.
The win in Cincinnati was significant because it proved that Federer is still capable of defeating the world's best players—namely Djokovic and Spain's Rafael Nadal—on the hard court surface, something that was still in doubt after Wimbledon.
But it would be a mistake to view Federer's recent success as a late-career renaissance. In fact, the U.S. Open will likely be his last good chance to win his 18th Grand Slam title, and Federer would be foolish not to treat it as such.
Male tennis players, especially in the modern era which dates back to 1968, simply do not win many Grand Slam singles titles in their 30s.
Before Federer's Wimbledon victory, Andre Agassi, at 32, was the oldest Australian Open champion (2003) and Andres Gimeno is the oldest player to win the French Open at age 34 (1974). Federer became only the third man in his 30s to win Wimbledon joining Rod Laver (1969) and Arthur Ashe (1975).
Federer is not getting any younger, and the 2013 Australian Open is a full five months away. The U.S. Open represents a landmark opportunity for Federer to add one more notch to his championship belt before the likes of Djokovic, Nadal and Murray finally put the nail in the coffin of Federer's storybook career.