Roger Federer is hoping to seize the moment in what may be his last great opportunity to win a major tennis tournament. The 31-year-old Swiss is playing under the bright lights at Flushing Meadows where he won an unbelievable five straight grand slams from 2004-2008.
Federer is hoping to excel now—at an older age—where he has so often thrived during his illustrious career.
Federer owns an amazing 17 grand slam titles, including seven at Wimbledon. Up until last month in London, the major championships had eluded him of late.
The man, whom many consider the greatest tennis player of all time, had not won a grand slam tournament since the 2010 Australian Open and many in the tennis community wondered if he was no longer able to compete with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
As he continues to age and his fierce rivals get better, it's easy to wonder whether the great but aging Roger Federer can win one more major tournament. Federer already caught a great break at the U.S. Open. Rafael Nadal, otherwise known as the biggest thorn in Federer's side, ruled himself out of the tournament two weeks ago due to a knee injury.
Many fans and pundits will ponder as time goes on whether the best player in the sport should be measured by how many grand slam championships he has won or how he measured up against his contemporaries in competition.
The latter phase of Federer's brilliant career has featured heartbreaking grand slam semifinal and final losses to his two biggest nemeses: Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Federer likely will be remembered as the best player of all time once he hangs up his racket, but many will debate his glaring inability to defeat his biggest rival (Nadal) more often on the biggest stages.
Incredibly, Nadal owns Federer in the major tournaments, defeating his European rival eight times in 10 grand slam matches.
Nadal has thoroughly dominated on the red clay of Roland Garros, where the Spaniard has lost only one career match. Coincidentally, that was the year Federer emerged victorious at the French Open, without the steep Nadal hurdle in his way.
Nadal has 11 grand slam titles to his name, though seven of those have come on clay. Nadal, like Federer, has won at all four of the grand slam venues, though owns only two hard court titles. Yet Nadal has defeated Federer in their only two grand slam matches on the hard court, both coming in Melbourne, first in the 2009 final and this year in the semifinal.
Federer's game is best on the slow, grass courts of Wimbledon, largely due to his overpowering serve and remarkably quick ground strokes. Federer does not put as much top spin on the ball as some of his competitors, which is what makes it so tough to go tit-for-tat on grass with the six-time Wimbledon champ.
Federer has remarkably won three Grand Slam titles within three separate calendar years, pulling off the feat in 2004, 2006 and 2007. In addition to his six titles in London and five US Open titles, Federer owns four Australian Open titles and the one French Open in 2009.
Rafael Nadal has won three grand slams in one year—once—with Djokovic pulling off this feat in 2011.
Most tennis players hit the end of the road once they hit 30, but most tennis players are not Roger Federer. His overall dominance over a prolonged stretch of time, on multiple surfaces, and his otherworldly stretch of reaching 23 consecutive semifinals in grand slam competitions, help to elevate Federer to the presumed status of "greatest of all time".
Federer reached 18 of 19 grand slam finals from the Wimbledon Championship in 2005 through the 2010 Australian Open. He has now reached an all-time record 33 grand slam semifinals and he also holds the most match wins in the history of grand slam tournaments.
Federer has held the No. 1 ranking on the ATP World Tour for more weeks than any player in history, eclipsing Pete Sampras' record of 286 weeks earlier this summer. When you consider all of his accolades, there is no player who possesses all of the streaks, goals and grand slam titles of the 31-year-old from Binningen, Switzerland.
All of those facts and statistics post daunting challenges to those who dare to challenge Federer's all time marks. The amazing thing is, two of his contemporaries, each in their prime, will challenge Federer's records with great vigor.
Nadal will have to transform and diversify his game to have it play more dominantly and consistently on all surfaces. He'll be challenged every step of the way by the rising Serbian, Djokovic, whose powerful serve, superior ground game and cat-like quickness—at only 25 years old—should stand tall at the top of the sport for most of this decade.
The one constant in sports, like in life, is change. Great athletes are eventually surpassed by their younger, hungrier contemporaries. Roger Federer remains the gold standard, despite struggles in recent years against his top rival, Nadal.
Federer's full body of work is exceptional and as of yet, unchallengeable by his rivals or predecessors in the sport. The 30-year-old is hoping for a late career surge to capture yet another U.S. Open title.
He also hopes to put the title of "Greatest tennis player of all time" completely out of reach.