The 2013 U.S. Open is nearly upon us, with the world's best tennis players all preparing for the final Grand Slam of the year. While every player has dreams of winning the U.S. Open, few players are under as much pressure to succeed as Roger Federer.
After a long 2013 season, Federer will finally return to elite form at the summer's hottest tennis event.
Federer has been abnormally inconsistent, which is saying something considering he's gone 32-11 in 2013. With that being said, Federer has gone from the consensus choice for the label of best in the world to something we haven't said in more than a decade—No. 7 in the ATP World Tour standings.
When dropping out of the top five is a devastating collapse, your greatness has been established.
As overstated a drop as it may be, Federer truly hasn't been himself over the past year. He's won just one title in 2013, losing before the quarterfinals in three events, including Wimbledon.
That's when we know something went wrong.
Federer had won seven of the past 10 Wimbledon tournaments, reaching the finals in 2008 and quarterfinals in both 2010 and 2011. Furthermore, Federer lost before the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam event for the first time since the 2004 French Open—a span of 36 tournaments.
Unfortunately, Federer has now won just one Grand Slam event since the 2010 Australian Open. More surprisingly, he's made just three finals appearances in that 15-tournament span.
Perhaps his demise was earlier than we're giving it credit for.
With all of this being established, Federer's two Grand Slam titles since 2010 are more than every other player on the ATP Tour not named Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal. For that reason, we're inclined to believe that Federer actually isn't done.
Djokovic, Murray and Nadal are just entering their prime as Federer enters a transitional period of declining athleticism.
Furthermore, as the 32-year-old Federer begins to lose his legs, 31-year-old David Ferrer begins to rise. Paired with the fact that anything short of a championship is considered failure, Federer has experienced a period of unparalleled scrutiny.
That's something the all-time great is unaccustomed to dealing with.
With that being said, this year has been a process that has seen Federer become more comfortable with what his body can and cannot do. The precision in his shots is as gorgeous as ever, but it's now on Federer to design his game around his athletic abilities.
At the U.S. Open, we'll see him do just that.
For the first time in a decade, Federer enters a Grand Slam tournament with a ranking that promotes an underrating. While expectations remain high, Federer will be able to fly under the radar during the early rounds, in some capacity, finding his rhythm before meeting high-profile opponents.
As we all know, when Federer finds his groove, few can match him shot-for-shot.
The U.S. Open will be the defining tournament of Federer's career trajectory, as we will determine just how much longer he can be one of the world's best. While a ranking of No. 7 in the world gives us no true reason for criticism, Federer's level of standards may not be attainable at his age.
Fortunately, the U.S. Open will provide the stage necessary for Federer to remind us all of why he is the best of our generation.