Roger Federer may be the New York Yankees of Tennis when it comes to playing in New York. A long time ago he was unbeatable, winning five Opens in a row and since then, a lot of promise but never was able to punch through again.
“For a long period I think I was not losing much, and when I came to the Open, I had all the answers for all the guys, all my opponents, all conditions, wind, you know, night, day. I really embraced everything about New York,” he said.
“I think that’s why I rarely had bad tournaments here in New York, because I like playing here. I think the court speed is good for me. I’m happy in this country. I’m happy in New York. Then the last 10 years have been a bit more difficult. Still, I came close. I had chances. Some regrets maybe along the way.
“But my personal experience with the five in a row was an unbelievable one. So I’m very proud of that accomplishment.”
Now, Federer has won slams elsewhere. Multiple wins at Wimbledon and Australia and even winning the French in 2009, but he never seemed to break-through again here.
And at age 37, you have to wonder how many chances for No. 6 in Flushing he has left. Ranked No. 2 this year, he got a very tougfh draw, including facing Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals.
If he is going for it, it’s not going to be easy.
“We have so many draws that happened throughout my career that you just take it on your chin and you’re, like, Okay, fine, that’s what it is,” Federer said.
“We can’t control it. I’m not in a quarterfinal match yet. I’m not in a second-round match yet. You just go back to — just the next few days are important. How am I feeling by my first-round match? That’s what the focus needs to be, and then the draw is what it is.
“Sure, you sometimes wonder, like, is it easier to play guys with not such a résumé like a Novak so early in the tournament? But because he won Cincinnati, I could have also played Novak in the fourth round if he wouldn’t have made a move in the rankings.”
Djokovic beat Federer at Cincinnati a few weeks ago, giving the impression the Serb has a good chance getting back on top here, even though he went through an injury riddled season.
It’s something on Federer’s mind but he’s not looking ahead either with so many close calls over the past 10 years, it’s not easy to place your eggs in one basket.
“I don’t remember the years anymore, but the two semis with match points were tough against Novak,” Federer said. “The finals was rough here. I have won some and lost some close ones here in New York. And then, you know, some years I just lost against a better guy. And some years it just didn’t work out.
“I think there are explanations for everything, especially the last two years, and the other ones were just close, which is unfortunate, I guess. But for me it’s not puzzling. I won the US Open five times. So I stand here pretty happy, to be quite honest. It’s not like, God, the US Open never worked out for me. It hasn’t the last couple years, but it’s all good.”
Even with that, Federer is still the home team here. Beloved in New York, the fans will definitely be behind him.
And that’s why this year’s Open is important.
“It’s even a bigger priority this year, the US Open, than it has been last year. Not that it wasn’t last year, but Wimbledon was key for me last year. That was where — you know, I wasn’t well the year before that, so last year we wanted to be ready for Wimbledon,” he said. “Even skipped the French for that.
“And then obviously not feeling 100% last year was hard. I knew from the get-go it was not going to be possible for me to win. Everything would have had to fall into place. Guys would have had to retire against me or played the worst match of their life against me, and and maybe then I would have had a chance, but later stages of a tournament is not feasible anymore.
“So also because that fact, because the last two years especially, two years ago when I couldn’t play at all, have just been difficult. I’m really excited and happy to be back here healthy again and feeling good and, you know, take it one match at a time and see what happens.”
Yes we will.