Fed­erer burst­ing with con­fi­dence

Thinks he has le­git shot at U.S. Open ti­tle

SundayXtra - - SPORTS - By Rachel Co­hen

NEW YORK — The ques­tion made Roger Fed­erer smile.

Noth­ing par­tic­u­larly amus­ing about ask­ing how he ad­justs from play­ing mostly night matches in the U.S. Open’s early rounds to the day­time starts at the end. But the as­sump­tion be­hind the query was cause for de­light.

“It’s per­fect that we’re talk­ing semis and fi­nals al­ready,” Fed­erer said. “It wasn’t like that last year.”

No, last year at this time the ques­tions were about whether a re­mark­able ca­reer was sput­ter­ing to a halt. He had lost in the sec­ond round at Wim­ble­don and ar­rived at the U.S. Open wary of a balky back and seeded sev­enth.

“Last year I was try­ing to con­vince my­self I did have an op­por­tu­nity,” he con­ceded Satur­day.

“I just kind of felt like it was always go­ing to be for me hard beat­ing top-5, top-10 play­ers,” Fed­erer added. “I felt like I had lit­tle mar­gin against guys ranked just out­side of the top 10 to No. 30 in the world.”

He was right. The 17-time ma­jor cham­pion lost in the fourth round to 22nd-ranked Tommy Ro­bredo.

“The con­fi­dence was go­ing away quickly, just be­cause I was just not mov­ing so well,” Fed­erer said. “I was scared to have an­other set­back.

“And so it was just not as clear-cut and sim­ple as it is this year.”

Be­cause this year, a deep run in New York again seems as rou­tine as the celebri­ties who dot the stands at Arthur Ashe Sta­dium.

Fed­erer took No­vak Djokovic to a tense fifth set in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal, reached the ti­tle match at the hard­court tuneup in Toronto, then won in Cincin­nati. He’s seeded a far more familiar No. 2 at Flush­ing Mead­ows with sec­ond-ranked Rafael Nadal side­lined by a wrist in­jury.

And con­sid­er­ing Fed­erer’s lop­sided los­ing record against the Spa­niard, the draw is look­ing mighty friendly.

“What stands out is the op­por­tu­nity to try to take ad­van­tage of the fact that he’s not here,” Fed­erer said. “It’s one less re­ally dif­fi­cult player to beat, maybe.”

The Swiss great wouldn’t meet Djokovic un­til the fi­nal. David Ferrer — 0-16 against Fed­erer — is a po­ten­tial semi­fi­nal op­po­nent.

There might never be a bet­ter chance to seize an 18th Grand Slam ti­tle.

The U.S. Open be­gins Mon­day with Andy Mur­ray, Stan Wawrinka, Venus Wil­liams and Sloane Stephens among the big names play­ing in the day ses­sion. Maria Shara­pova and Djokovic take the court on Ashe for the night ses­sion.

The un­known with Djokovic is whether he can flip the switch to re­dis­cover his fo­cus af­ter the Wim­ble­don ti­tle fol­lowed shortly by his wed­ding.

“It was a very emo­tional pe­riod,” Djokovic said Satur­day. “I just felt a lit­tle bit flat on the court. I wasn’t man­ag­ing to find that in­ten­sity and the per­fect mindset. But, you know, it’s all nor­mal. It’s some­thing that I’m ex­pe­ri­enc­ing for the first time, right?”

It’s been more than two years since Fed­erer padded his record by win­ning his 17th Grand Slam ti­tle. By the end of 2013, it looked as though he might stay stuck on that num­ber for­ever.

Fed­erer brought on an idol, Ste­fan Ed­berg, as coach this year. Un­der the six-time ma­jor champ, he’s mov­ing for­ward far more, end­ing points quickly and sav­ing the wear and tear on his 33-year- old body. Fed­erer came to the net 67 times in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal.

Ed­berg’s guid­ance has helped Fed­erer’s per­for­mances all sea­son.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Roger Fed­erer is seeded No. 2.

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