At the age of 33, Roger Federer enters the 2014 U.S. Open with a great chance to win a record 18th major title.
There are plenty of reasons to like the world No. 3 in New York this year. He's playing some great tennis, he has a favorable draw and he won't have to contend with rival Rafael Nadal—he pulled out of the tournament with a wrist injury.
TennisNow tweeted another career milestone Federer could achieve with a title:
Also, Federer could pass Pete Sampras for the men's highest US Open winning percentage (Open Era) with title >>> http://t.co/eOtxcPHSx0— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) August 25, 2014
Despite having these advantages, Federer isn't considered the odds-on favorite this year. That privilege has gone to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
However, when the dust settles at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, onlookers will realize it should have been the other way around.
At this time last year, we were all ready to write off the former world No. 1 due to lingering injuries that had many wondering if he'd ever find his form again. Being a natural competitor, Federer continued to push himself in tournament play regardless of his form.
That led to many disappointing early exits—namely his fourth-round departure from the 2013 U.S. Open. It was clear his confidence was gone, and Federer knew it.
He recently commented on his former mentality during a press conference, via Paul Macpherson of ATPWorldTour.com:
I think last year I was trying to convince myself I did have an opportunity [to win the title]. But I felt I needed a little help and for the draw to open up because it was going to be hard for me beating top-five or top-10 players [and] I felt like I had little margin against guys ranked just outside of the top 10 to No. 30. The rest of the field I felt like I could manage it somehow, but the confidence was going away quickly because I was just not moving so well. I was scared to have another setback.
This year, Federer needs no such convincing.
Over his last four tournaments, Federer has claimed two titles and has reached the final in each event, maintaining a record of 19-2 along the way. That brings the world No. 3 to a 49-9 record for the year, reaching eight finals and winning three.
The Wall Street Journal summed up how Federer is feeling entering this year's U.S. Open:
Djokovic, on the other hand, had a great run earlier in the year. He holds a 39-6 record with four titles, including a Wimbledon championship. However, he simply hasn't maintained that high level of play in recent weeks.
In his last two tournaments, Djokovic has suffered extremely early exits. He was ousted by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto and then left Cincinnati after falling at the hands of Tommy Robredo—both losses came in the round of 16.
Perhaps it's Djokovic's impending parenthood that's taking away from his concentration. After all, he recently spoke of his current mindset during an interview with Ben Rothenberg of The New York Times.
"I'm going to enjoy it and try to take as much energy as I can — positive energy. But without a doubt, life changes. You know, priorities change. My priorities, my family, my wife, my future kid. Tennis is definitely not No. 1 anymore."
There's certainly nothing wrong with putting family first in this situation—this must truly be an exciting time for the world No. 1. It does appear to be affecting his play, though.
Based on the ongoing trends in Federer's and Djokovic's play, and a far more favorable draw for the world No. 3, it's not difficult to grasp the notion that Federer should be perceived as the 2014 U.S. Open favorite.
Time will certainly tell, but the way things look, it's advantage: Federer.