Roger Federer may be quite a few years older than the other major tennis pros looking to score a victory in the 2014 U.S. Open, but that in no way precludes him from being the most dangerous.
Novak Djokovic is the world No. 1 and the likes of Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka should cause plenty of mayhem in this tournament, but Federer's recent string of fine performances makes him the player to beat in New York City, even though he's well past 30 and hasn't won a Grand Slam in over two years.
The twilight of Roger Federer's career shines brighter than most tennis players' glory days. The 33-year-old legend of the backline boasts 17 career Grand Slam victories, with the latest coming at Wimbledon 2012. He's made it the semi-finals of the last four Australian Opens and notched a finals appearance in Wimbledon 2014.
Most players' primes, even some of the great ones, hardly look that good.
The only pockmark—if one can even call it that—on his undeniable legacy is the fact that he's failed to capture the French Open more than once. Of course, the majority of players to pick up a racket won't ever come close to a victory in the finals at Roland Garros, but his dominance at the other Grand Slam events does make this record stand out.
Indeed, Federer hasn't gone on autopilot in his later years. He began working with coach Stefan Edberg in early 2014, citing him as a childhood role model. Via a January 2014 report by ATP Staff from ATPWorldTour.com:
Obviously he was a role model for me growing up, the way he conducted himself on the court, away from the court, in the press room. I learned a lot from him, and it's nice to have him in my corner and be able to just speak to him and be inspired by what he says about the game today and about how it used to be for him maybe, telling me stories.
His commitment to improvement and staying on top of his opposition has paid off in the summer of 2014.
Federer defeated a veritable who's who of young and established tennis pros at the Western & Southern Open. He dispatched Gael Monfils, Murray, Milos Raonic and David Ferrer in that order, dropping just two sets along the way.
In the 2014 Rodgers Cup, Federer reached the finals only to lose to a peaking Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in three sets. Add that to his runner-up performance at Wimbledon this year and you have an unparalleled 2014 run.
It's this work ethic and incredible consistency that has writers like The Telegraph's Matthew Norman wondering how they could have ever doubted him, while acknowledging his calming demeanor:
In the intervening half decade, Federer has frequently been dismissed as in terminal decline by idiots like me. Whether it was this unaccustomed lack of respect, the civilising effects of twin sets of twins, becoming better acquainted with losing, or a combination of the above, the swagger evident from those hideous naval white jackets he used to wear at Wimbledon has faded.
Federer's obvious talents don't exist in a vacuum, and one would expect another player to be a favorite in this tournament if someone were playing as consistently well.
Andy Murray is a strong hard-court player, but he's 34-14 in 2014 and has made it past the quarter-finals just twice in 2014.
Wawrinka is an abysmal 2-14 against his fellow countryman, per ATPWorldTour.com.
Tsonga, could be a threat with his powerful stroke and hard-charing serve-and-volley style. However, the broad-shouldered Frenchman has a 5-11 record against Federer, including his recent victory.
That leaves Djokovic, who bested Federer in the Wimbledon final this year and is one of the few players that can match the Swiss standard-bearer defensively.
However, he's been a bit off since winning Wimbledon, losing in the round of 16 to Tsonga at the Rodgers Cup and then losing in straight sets to Tommy Robredo at the Western & Southern Open.
With the defending-champion Nadal out of the tournament with a wrist injury, this is truly a golden opportunity for Federer, let alone the other major players in tennis. Of course, some fans will always wonder how the tournament would look with Nadal scything his way through the bracket, but it shouldn't take anything away from the eventual winner of this tournament.
There are too many talented players for one pro's absence to cheapen a victory. If Federer wins, it would simply cement his legacy as the greatest player of the Open Era, and perhaps of all-time.