Roger Federer's resume since his second-round loss to Daniel Brands in Gstaad may not look that impressive, but his last two matches point to a rebound for the Swiss great.
On Tuesday, Federer defeated Grega Zemlja in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. He won in a cool 93 minutes, notching 12 aces and 35 winners while capturing 85 percent of first-serve points and 20 of 21 net points, per USOpen.org.
OK, so it was Grega Zemlja, the No. 62 player in the world. Then again, Federer lost to the No. 51 player in the world in Gstaad.
More than anything, however, Federer's rather breezy victory on Tuesday traced back to a revitalized effort at the historic figure's last tournament, the Western & Southern Open. In that tournament, Federer defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber and No. 11 seed Tommy Haas before giving the red-hot Rafael Nadal a scare in the third round.
In the match against Nadal, Federer won the first set, 7-5, before eventually falling, 7-5, 4-6, 3-6. While it was ultimately a loss, it was the first time Federer had won a set against Nadal in three matches this year. Nadal also captured only six more points (101 to 95) than Federer, per ATPWorldTour.com. It was much closer than the final score suggested.
Federer's first-round win at the 2013 U.S. Open on Tuesday came against a mediocre opponent, but it was nonetheless an extension of his improved play at the Western & Southern Open. Now, it would be illogical to all of a sudden believe Federer could beat someone like Nadal at the U.S. Open this year, but there is no question the Swiss great looks better out there on the court.
Federer is tasked with one of the greatest challenges of his career: finding a way to compete in Grand Slams while Father Time continues to enforce his will on the 32-year-old. It is a challenge that eventually dooms even the greatest players. Federer must slow Father Time as much as he can.
The fact that Federer has looked better recently is proof that he's not completely on the decline. He is still tinkering as he ages, trying to find sunlight amidst all the gloom and doom.
He will probably defeat second-round opponent Carlos Berlocq in much the same way as he defeated Zemlja.
Will he be able to test some of the top-tier players down the stretch at the 2013 U.S. Open?
Well, one thing's for sure: he already tested Nadal earlier this month. Don't sleep on one of the greatest players to ever play the game.