Almost everyone believes Novak Djokovic will win the 2011 U.S. Open.
Fans are saying it, oddsmakers are saying it and even some here at Bleacher Report are saying it. But, despite the overwhelming majority that is siding with the Serb, former universal favorite Roger Federer still very much has a shot at winning the U.S. Open himself.
It was only a short few years ago that the conversation before the commencement of any major began and ended with Federer. But now, with the all-time leader in Grand Slam titles a little older and his rivals a little more polished, there seems to be a greater number of people pushing him out the door than showing their support.
Djokovic may indeed have every right to be the favorite here. But there is no such thing as a sure thing in tennis, and that is only more true when Roger Federer is in the discussion.
Here are five reasons why you can't count him out yet.
Retort if you must about how much more precious a year is in tennis terms, but only two U.S. Open Championships have passed since Roger Federer last stood victorious.
(Unless you count the golf variety, but surely you assumed I was omitting that from the discussion.)
What's more, the last time Federer was left alone to hear the loving cries of the New York City faithful, it was for his record fifth consecutive U.S. Open title.
Two others have won five times, Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras. But while Federer went five-for-five, Connors completed his victories over the course of nine years; Sampras did so in 12.
Obviously, this ultimately does nothing to forecast how Federer will fare this year. But confidence is important in any sport, and there is no doubt that Federer's will always endure a slight boost when he arrives at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
There is little covering the fact that, in his career, Roger Federer has had more difficulty with Rafael Nadal than with any other opponent.
In head-to-head matches, Nadal has a commanding 17-8 lead. He is 7-2 in Grand Slam matches against Federer, 6-2 in Grand Slam finals. And while the majority of these victories have taken place on clay, Nadal's best surface, the two are dead-even at 4-4 on hard court, the surface on which the U.S. Open is played.
Add to that the fact that Nadal is five years younger than Federer, and this once storied rivalry doesn't appear to have much oomph anymore.
But that may just play well into Federer's advantage.
In the past year, a new rival has emerged in Nadal's path, one that recently dethroned him from the No. 1 world ranking. Novak Djokovic has been the player of 2011, winning two Grand Slams already and losing only one match the entire year.
What's more, one might go so far to say that Djokovic is gaining the upper hand in the rivalry with Nadal. Djokovic recently took down Nadal at Wimbledon to earn his first victory against him in a Grand Slam final. Nadal has four hard-court losses in 2011—three of which have come at the hands of Djokovic.
Nadal demonstrated before that he has issues with confidence—though it is unclear whether his insistence that he couldn't win this year's French Open was just a well-executed mind trick—and now would be a prime time for him to question his abilities against the Serbian star.
Federer, as difficult as it would be to believe, might be floating under Nadal's radar.
And that would make for an optimal opportunity for Federer to swoop in and overtake him if the two happen to cross paths at some point in the tournament.
The shifts of power evident among the top three players in the world would make for an interesting flow chart. Rafael Nadal has dominated Roger Federer, but has come to struggle against Novak Djokovic. Federer, meanwhile, yields a disadvantage to Nadal but appears to still hold his own against the No. 1 player, Djokovic.
Djokovic did open the year by defeating Federer in the semifinals of the Australian Open, making him the only player besides Nadal to beat Federer in back-to-back Grand Slam matches. But Federer sought his revenge in the French Open, taking down Djokovic in the semis and halting the potential record-breaking match winning streak at 43.
Federer leads the head-to-head rivalry, 14 matches to nine. Federer also leads in Grand Slam matchups, five to three.
To top it off, Federer still has the resume that Djokovic lacks. Although Djokovic has historically played well at the U.S. Open, he has failed to win in two finals appearances. Should he meet Federer in this year's final, it would be interesting to see if Federer's experience gives him any advantage.
Roger Federer has failed to win a Grand Slam title this year.
Do you know the last time we heard that sentence? 2002.
Federer has also gone six straight majors without winning, doubling his longest drought since his first Grand Slam title.
As robotic as Federer may appear sometimes, he still beats the—if you don't like sports clichés, turn back now—heart of a champion. Champions often have as much pride as they do vigor. Federer is undoubtedly motivated to prove not only to doubters but to himself that he still has what it takes to compete with the best.
Part of the reason critics have believed in the supposed demise of Roger Federer is that he raised his standards by which we come to judge him so high in the first place.
And I'm not entirely convinced everyone realizes just how amazing his best stretch of tennis was.
Look at the numbers. Federer, at one point, reached 10 straight Grand Slam finals—an all-time record.
He reached 23 straight semifinals—another all-time record. Do you know what the previous record was for consecutive Grand Slam semifinals appearances? 10!
He not only broke that record; he demolished it.
As it is, he is also still in the midst of an ongoing 29 straight quarterfinals appearances in major tournaments. That, if you hadn't guessed, is another record.
Federer may not be the Federer of 2006, but who should expect him to be? That was five years ago. Some players are in and out of the game in that time.
The fact is, Federer still plays a high level of tennis and, as of right now, must always be acknowledged when he competes in a tournament.
Is he a favorite to win the 2011 U.S. Open? No; for now that title rests with Novak Djokovic, and rightfully so. But anyone who says Roger Federer doesn't have a chance to win is either very cynical, or very foolish.