It's no secret that 2012 has been the year of renaissance for the world No. 1-ranked tennis player, Roger Federer.
After years atop the perch as the unquestioned best player in the world, the 31-year-old Federer came into this season ranked third behind in-their-prime stars Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, and seemingly on the verge of descending into a second-tier star.
But with Nadal hampered by a nagging knee injury, Djokovic unable to repeat his 2011 ATP dominance and Andy Murray still not capable of making the leap, Federer did what he always does: persevered and became the best tennis player in the world again.
The Swiss star has six victories on tour this season, the most of any player and Federer's most since his dominant 2007 campaign. His win over Murray at Wimbledon gave the FedEx his record-tying seventh championship at the All England Club and first Slam victory since the 2010 Australian Open.
And with the U.S. Open kicking off at Flushing Meadows this week for the year's last major, Federer needs to come away with his second Slam championship of the year to complete his dominant season.
The reason? Quite simple. It will likely be the best chance of his career to come away with his record sixth U.S. Open championship.
Nadal's faulty knee will hold him out at Flushing Meadows, and while Djokovic has gotten back into rhythm of late, he's still nowhere near his apex performance from last season.
Plus, there is always the age factor.
In tennis, being on the wrong side of 30 is almost like being over 40 in most team sports. Speed, quickness and dexterity are all keys to being an elite tennis player. Once an athlete hits their thirties, those traits wane to the point where having experience can no longer overcome the physical shortcomings.
From now until the end of his career, each Slam that Federer enters will be his last best chance to come away with a record-extending 18th major championship.
But if his opening-round dispatching of American Donald Young is any indication, Federer has no plans of stopping his magical 2012 at Flushing Meadows.
The version of Federer that walked on the court Wednesday is the best and most confident we've seen him in years, as evidenced by a pre-tournament press conference.
Federer said (via ESPN):
I think I felt good last year, but probably felt that maybe at times the matches were not always in my racquet, whereas maybe this time around I feel like if I'm playing well I can dictate who's going to win or lose.
It's going to take something special from my opponent to win. That's kind of how it feels right now.
With that level of confidence and his game possibly at the highest level of any player 30-plus in history, the time is now for Federer. A win at this year's Open would make 2012 arguably Federer's greatest season on tour. Not just because of his on-court dominance, but because of the factors he's overcome to get there.
He just needs to take care of business this year while he can, as time waits for no athlete.