No matter what happens at the US Open this year, the USTA still could hang its hat on Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
The two all-time greats have been headlining the top of the men’s draw and even though they are in the same side, you figure one of them would make the Final, because after all, of the three slams this year Federer took home two, while Nadal has one to his credit.
But something happened on their way to destiny, both Federer and Nadal haven’t looked so hot the first two rounds.
Nadal hasn’t looked crisp out there. The No. 1 seed had some trouble with Dusan Lajovic in the first round, but won it straight sets and then dropped a set in the second round to the 121 ranked Taro Daniel.
He’s through to the third, but in the past, Nadal would have killed those guys.
Federer on the other hand, who has been battling a back injury, had two five set classics the first two rounds to two players who had no business taking a set off the Maestro, let alone two. Francis Tiafoe and Mikhail Youzhny will be fine players someday, but should have taken their lumps from Federer and went home.
So, with that kind of start you have to wonder if the long year is starting to catch up to the two name players in the tournament.
“I don’t feel fatigue,” Nadal said. “I feel positive. I feel hungry to keep playing. I’m excited for being here. Not tired at all. Is the last big, big event of the year. I want to try all the things that are in my hands to give me a chance. That’s what I am doing: working with the right intensity, with the right attitude, then in the match trying to do the same.”
Okay great, and with Nadal you may wonder if it’s just a slight slump at the start, but with Federer is it the back?
“I think because you’re on a high, you’re thrilled that you got through, so you don’t look at the negative,” Federer said. “Or I don’t. Yes, I might feel more tired than I normally would going into a third round, but that’s okay.
“My preparation hasn’t been good at all here. I knew I was going to maybe struggle early on. Maybe I struggled more than I would have liked to. But I’m still in the draw, which gives me a chance. I still believe I’m going to pick up my game and become just more consistent because I’m not playing all that bad. It’s just that I’m going a bit up and down in waves throughout the match.”
Both Federer and Nadal missed last year with injuries. After taking six months off they came out like houses on fire in the beginning of the season with both players meeting in the finals of Australia, Indian Wells and Miami.
Federer took off the clay court season ceding Roland Garros to its king in Nadal and then came back to win Wimbledon.
With Federer at 36 and Nadal at 31, they could be tiring out after the long season.
The warning signs are there and it won’t get easier for either player as the tournament goes on. Tomorrow Federer takes on the No. 31 seed Feliciano Lopez, while Nadal gets Leonardo Mayer.
“He’s playing well,” Nadal said of Mayer. “Coming in confidence. Winning in Hamburg a couple weeks ago. Winning already two good matches here. Gasquet and Sugita. Sugita was coming here playing well. He’s a good player with good quality.
“I need to play better than what I did if I want to have chances of success. That’s what I going to try to do.”
Hopefully both of them will straighten it out soon.