Novak Djokovic is still the Vegas favorite (per Odds Shark) to win it all at the 2014 U.S. Open coming off his win at Wimbledon. But as Roger Federer targets an 18th Grand Slam title and eyes the U.S. Open title for himself, Federer is in a position to meet—and defeat—Djokovic in the final.
Djokovic claimed the top seed in this year's Open, while Roger Federer took the No. 2 seed. This year, Djokovic will attempt to become the first player to reach a fifth consecutive U.S. Open final since Federer did so from 2004 through 2009. Djokovic plays for his eighth career Grand Slam singles crown.
Because they are seeded 1-2, Djokovic and Federer could only meet in the final. Early indications point to the likelihood that they indeed will.
With reigning 2013 champion Rafael Nadal having withdrawn from the tournament this year due to a wrist injury, Federer can carve out a clear path to the title.
Federer made it look easy in his Round 1 win over Marinko Matosevic in straight sets Tuesday. Though the 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4) victory wasn't a massacre by any stretch of the imagination, Federer maintained a lead throughout. He won 53 of his 60 first serves, per USOpen.org, and hit two backhand groundstroke winners.
Christopher Clarey of The New York Times broke down the match and the dominance that Federer held throughout:
#Federer v Matosevic 13 FH winners 11 BH winners 41 Total winners 69 % 1st serve 88% 1st s pts won 56% 2d s pts won 28 UEs 22 of 30 at net— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) August 27, 2014
Federer also had a no-look tweener after the point was dead that, while unintentional, was fitting in with his decisive victory:
Federer will play Sam Groth in Round 2. The two have never met on the ATP Tour. Federer has not lost in the second round in the past 14 U.S. Open tournaments.
Djokovic similarly barely broke a sweat in his straight-set win over Diego Schwartzman in the first round, starting off with a 4-0 lead en route to his 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 victory. His precision was spot on, evidenced when he hit a "majestic forehand" that drew gasps and applause from the crowd. So why is Federer headed for a title?
|Western & Southern Open||Final (W)||3rd Round|
|Rogers Cup||Final (L)||3rd Round|
|Wimbledon||Final (L)||Final (W)|
|French Open||4th Round||Final (L)|
|Australian Open||Semifinals||Quarterfinals (L)|
While Djokovic won at Wimbledon, he's looked less than stellar in uncharacteristic losses since, falling to Tommy Robredo in Cincinnati and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto. Some have speculated that his marriage in July and expecting the birth of his first child in October have taken his mind out of the game.
Djokovic himself even said that "tennis is definitely not number one anymore" and that over the last two months prior to the Open he "felt a little bit flat on the court," per NDTV.com.
Federer, meanwhile, has strung together a superb summer circuit, winning in Cincinnati and making the final of both the Rogers Cup and Wimbledon. With Nadal out, Federer won't have to worry about playing Djokovic until the final at the earliest, which means that the road from here to the final is relatively unobstructed.
If Federer and Djokovic meet in the final, it will be another of their many head-to-head matchups over the course of their careers. Federer holds the edge in all-time matches at 18-17, but Djokovic has won out more often in the finals at 6-4.
|Wimbledon||Final||Djokovic||6-7(7), 6-4 ,7-6(4), 5-7, 6-4|
|Monte Carlo Masters||Semifinal||Federer||7-5, 6-2|
|Indian Wells Masters||Final||Djokovic||3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3)|
|Dubai||Semifinal||Federer||3-6, 6-3, 6-2|
In 2014, they're 2-2, but it's worth noting that Federer has generally taken fewer sets to cement his wins over Djokovic. The Serb had to work for his Wimbledon title, as Federer launched a riveting comeback attempt that drew the action out over five sets. With his aggressive play in Monte Carlo, Federer knocked out defending champion Djokovic, while at Indian Wells it took another dramatic third set for Djokovic to finish off Federer.
When Federer beat top-seeded Djokovic in Dubai, it was for the first time in 18 months. He has since increased that frequency just a bit.
Even Andy Murray is "wary" of the threat Federer poses in winning the tournament. It's clear to spectators and competitors both that he's in top form entering the second round. With a game-winning backhand and a game free of many errors, Federer is well situated to challenge Djokovic for the title.