Roger Federer: Breaking Down His Top 10 US Open Moments
The final Grand Slam event opened Monday in Flushing, New York. The tournament is formally known as the U.S. Open.
Some in New York have begun calling it Roger Federer's American Paradise. They can make such an ironic yet bold statement because Federer is tied with Pete Sampras for the most U.S. Open victories, with five over the course of his career.
The recently turned 31-year-old Federer is seeded No.1 as he enters this year's tournament in New York, giving him a wonderful chance to become the first man to win the most prestigious U.S. tournament six times.
Needless to say, Federer has had plenty of memorable shining moments at Flushing Meadows. Will any moment in 2012 top his current top 10? Maybe, maybe not.
First, let's find out what those top 10 consist of, shall we?
20-Year-Old Federer Reaches Quarters at U.S. Open
Though Roger Federer has advanced past the age of 30, not much has changed since 2001, when Federer reached the Round of 16 at Flushing Meadows.
The hair, yes.
Marriage status, yes.
But the tennis player is still the same man. If anything, he's better with age and experience.
None of that takes away from his tremendous accomplishments at age 20 in New York. Add to that the fact he was playing junior tennis a year prior to his success at this tournament.
Each of those factors make 2001 a great year for Federer.
Roger Repeats Success/Failure at U.S. Open in 2002
For a 21-year-old player, Roger Federer's play at the 2002 U.S. Open was outstanding, as he reached the Round of 16 again.
The positive spin, of course, is that he was able to repeat the success he had in Flushing the year before. No player should ever be disappointed about reaching the quarterfinals of any tournament.
The negative spin, which was the predominantly preached one at the time, stated that Federer could not win the big one. His play at the Grand Slams was disappointing to many.
That reason alone is what makes this such an important moment in Federer's career. As with any athlete, he had two choices.
He could agree with the media and believe he did not have what it takes to excel in the most pressure-packed events on the tennis calendar.
Or he could man up and play better.
We all know the results, as he quickly became the most dominant player in the world of tennis, and quite possibly the greatest of all time.
Roger Wins for First Time at Flushing Meadows
The first time doing anything is memorable.
Though the 2004 U.S. Open was not Roger's first Grand Slam victory, it was his first U.S. Open title. It was the first time he'd found ultimate success on the hard surface of Flushing.
For that reason, this particular title earns a special place on this list. For Federer's sake, it didn't hurt that he was still very young and handsome.
Simply enough, his victory made him the talk of New York and allowed him to enjoy this victory as much as any champion could.
From just the memory perspective, this one is high on the list for a good reason.
It didn't hurt that his victory was the dominant sort—three sets over former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.
Roger Defends His Title in 2005
With each successive year, Roger Federer's hair got a little shorter.
In much the same way, the list of doubters and haters got much shorter as well.
By successfully defending his U.S. Open crown in 2005, Federer made the tennis world well aware he was for real.
His second U.S. Open championship cemented his status as the preeminent player in the world.
And the fact he beat a legend in Andre Agassi only grew his own legend, one that was quickly taking on mythical features of epic proportions.
But this is merely the beginning of the story for the greatest noun to come from Switzerland since the cheese, or the knife, or whichever is considered greater.
Call It a Three-Peat
Few men have seen their career production graphs consistently tilt upward to the point it smashed through the axis which is generally so tightly guarded.
But Federer's third consecutive victory in New York capped a Grand Slam season that saw the Swiss product capture three of the four most important tournaments.
No player was on the same planet in terms of on-court acumen.
And few players had the charm and likability of Federer to become a brand in and of himself. Yet that is exactly what Federer has become.
One of the few players who had a chance to become that was Andy Roddick, the player Federer destroyed in the 2006 final to gain giant status.
The four-set victory likely crushed Roddick's confidence and insistence he could become great. It certainly did nothing to alleviate Federer of any confidence or success.
Four in a Row
You can count on one hand the number of players who have dominated a major tournament four consecutive years (or more).
Roger Federer has done it at two different tournaments—which, by the way, happen to be played on radically different surfaces.
At this point, the tennis crowd was less concerned with who Roger Federer was playing. It didn't matter the opponent, Federer would just win.
That said, Rafael Nadal was making a name for himself and beginning to prove he could be the Bird to Federer's Magic, or vice-versa, or insert your favorite rival analogy.
Nonetheless, Federer's dominance at Flushing Meadows continued in 2007. And he wasn't done, either.
Fab Five, in a Row
We've clearly established that Roger Federer was in the midst of dominance almost never seen in tennis—or any sport, for that matter.
That was before he won his fifth consecutive U.S. Open crown in 2008.
The fifth only cemented Federer's five-year run at Flushing as the greatest individual run by a player in tennis history. That is if you include his streak at Wimbledon in that (he won five in a row from 2003 to 2007 and six of seven when you add in 2009).
No matter how you choose to qualify these things, Federer's success in that five-year period was something we'd never seen, and likely won't again.
Never mind who he beat, all you need to know is he won, again.
Roger Eclipsed Late as He Goes for Six
Juan Martin del Potro did the unthinkable in 2009. He beat Roger Federer.
Not to make excuses, but Federer's loss was more than excusable.
First, it took five sets for del Potro to do the deed. And that came shortly after a whirlwind 2009 to that point in which Federer made his longtime girlfriend Mirka Federer and the couple shortly after had twin daughters, Myla Rose and Charlene Riva.
Just getting to the final in 2009 was an amazing accomplishment for Federer. That he took del Potro to five sets is something he can sit back one day and celebrate, along with all of his victories.
Heck, even now, Federer would likely say that was his favorite U.S. Open because of the tremendous blessings in his life.
2010 Semifinals Appearance
I adamantly sustain that reaching the semis of a tennis tournament, especially a major, is something to celebrate. I truly do not care who you are.
Even the man, the myth, the legend, Roger Federer should be happy that he reached the semis at Flushing in 2010.
No he did not win (Novak Djokovic defeated him on Day 13). But he sustained a meaningful presence at a point in his career where he could have easily faded into oblivion.
That in itself is impressive. And it makes the 2010 U.S. Open pretty sweet indeed.
2011 Semis Loss to Novak Djokovic
It wasn't the greatest tennis match ever played (heck, it pales in comparison to the one Federer played against del Potro two years earlier, or the actual greatest match of all time between Federer and Nadal in the 2008 Wimbledon final).
But Federer's loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2011 semis was a great tennis match, one even novice and casual tennis fans would have enjoyed thoroughly.
It may not rank among Federer's finest moments, if for no other reason than he has more Grand Slam titles than fingers. Still, having Federer involved in this fine match makes it one of Federer's 10 best U.S. Open moments.
Perhaps more importantly, it sets the stage for Federer's 11th U.S. Open tournament, one where Federer is ranked No. 1 but figures to get some stiff competition from Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, if he is going to win the tournament.
Getting his sixth U.S. Open title promises to be a difficult task, but it would help him erase moments like last year's semis from his memory. And it would only add to the monumental legend he already possesses.
Quick question, though: Is that even possible?