US Open Preview: Can Roger Federer Use Tourney To Right His Ship?
The only other time since winning his first major in 2003 that Roger Federer entered the US Open without having won one of the season's first three majors was 2008. All he did that year was capture his fifth consecutive title in Flushing Meadows.
Sure, the Swiss Maestro is not the same player he was three years ago. He is past his prime and has slipped to No. 3 in the rankings, but he is still as hungry as ever to add to his strong legacy.
The following slides represent a glimpse into the upcoming US Open men's tournament and what Federer has both going for him and against him this year in New York.
FOR: He's Won a Major Every Year Since 2003
Cynthia Lum/Getty Images
Since breaking through at Wimbledon in 2003, Federer has been a model of consistency. There are many impressive streaks he's accumulated over that time.
Perhaps the most impressive one is that he won at least one major every year between 2003 and 2010. He came up empty at the first three slams in 2011, however, and needs to win the US Open to keep that streak intact.
The Swiss star is an astute student of the game and tends to know exactly where he stands in different categories among the all-time greats. Add that to his still strong hunger to win the bigger events on tour, you know he will push hard for his sixth US Open title next month.
FOR: US Open Has Been His Most Consistent Major Since 2004
Cynthia Lum/Getty Images
Federer held two match points against Novak Djokovic in the US Open semifinals last season. He was unable to convert those and ended up losing to the Serb in five sets.
If only he had converted one of the match points, Federer would have been playing in his seventh consecutive final in New York. After winning five in a row from 2004-2008, he has come up just short the last two years (lost to Juan Martin del Potro in a five-set final in 2009).
Most importantly, his 2010 US Open run was one of his better efforts at a Grand Slam over the last six ones that he has not won.
After Pete Sampras passed his prime, his best results on the bigger stages were also at the US Open. Federer seems real comfortable at Flushing Meadows and it seems like it would give him his best chance at winning a 17th major based on his past history.
FOR: He's the Only Man to Beat the Favorite This Season
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has lost just one match all season. No, he hasn't been hurt for most of the year or anything like that. He is just having one of the best seasons in sports history of all time.
If it were not for Federer, Djokovic would most likely still be working on an undefeated season. The Swiss Maestro took out the Serb in the French Open Finals and has actually given Djokovic his last two losses on tour overall.
Federer might again pose the biggest threat to Djokovic winning another tournament in New York, which would be his third Grand Slam tournament win of the year. Rafael Nadal can't seem to figure him out for whatever reason, and the rest of the tour struggles to even win sets against him.
Djokovic did knock off Federer at the 2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open and has other wins in minor tournaments, but Federer does seem to be the only guy that can get under his skin at all right now.
AGAINST: Vulnerability Against Big Hitters
Oli Scarff/Getty Images
There was once a time that you could pretty much lock in a win for Federer in a five-set match against everyone not named Nadal. That is all but gone now, even though he has reached at least the quarters of the last 29 Grand Slams.
The biggest threat to Federer now comes from the big hitters in the game. His recent history of losing two straight matches to Jo Wilfried Tsonga is the best indication of that.
Over the last eight grand slam tournaments played, the Swiss Maestro has one title, one loss to Nadal, two losses to Djokovic, and four losses to big hitters (Juan Martin del Potro, Robin Soderling, Tomas Berdych, Tsonga). This trend shows that he is very vulnerable to being hit off the court, something that was unheard of earlier in his career.
The bad news here is that after the top four players in the world, the two most likely contenders in New York are big hitters that have given Federer trouble in the latter stages of his career. He may have to knock off 2009 US Open Champion del Potro and/or Tsonga if he wants another major title.
AGAINST: Djokovic and Nadal?
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
While it was once Federer and Nadal who were monopolizing the Grand Slam tournaments, that is now being done by Nadal and Djokovic. The world's top two players have combined to win the last six majors, meeting in the finals twice.
For Federer to finally break out of his slump, it may be necessary for him to knock off both Nadal and Djokovic. He beat Djokovic in the semis at the French Open, but was unable take out Nadal in the finals.
Whoever the top two players have been in men's tennis since the mid 2000s have really combined to put a stranglehold on the rest of the field. Juan Martin del Potro is the only player to beat both Federer and Nadal in the same Grand Slam event, really showing how hard it can be to take out both of the top players.
If anyone could take out the top two players in the world, it would be Federer. He is still considered to be one of the greatest players of all time, if not the greatest, and has already proven to be successful this year in the spoiler role.
AGAINST: Age and Inevitability
Julian Finney/Getty Images
As invincible Federer seemed to be at one time, no one can escape father time. He just had his 30th birthday and his best tennis is behind him.
The body of the all-time great has slowed down and doesn't let him do some of the things it used to. Five-set matches used to give him an edge as he could methodically wear down his opponent, but it can now really serve to hurt his chances.
Since the rest of the field has really caught up to Federer, he has to exert more energy in winning his matches, even against the nobodies. That means that even if he advances to Super Saturday of this year's US Open, it's unlikely that he will be as fresh as he was in previous years.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Will Djokovic add to his case of putting together the best individual season in sports history?
Will Federer put his critics to rest by delivering a vintage fortnight in New York?
Can Andy Murray finally make the next step in his career and actually show up at a major final? or
Will someone come out of the shadows like del Potro in 2009 and turn the tennis world upside down?
Whatever ends up happening, it should be another exciting men's grand slam tournament. If Djokovic is going to win his third major of the year, he will have to do by dealing with two extremely motivated players who are just behind him in the rankings, as they are both coming off bitter losses at Wimbledon.