Federer’s Open route: All to noth­ing

Af­ter 5 ti­tles in row, he’s try­ing to end 10-year drought

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - U.s. Open - By Brian Ma­honey As­so­cated Press Mon­day-Sept. 9 in New York * — de­fend­ing cham­pion

NEW YORK — Even with all the times Roger Federer has held the U.S. Open tro­phy, he still can’t for­get the time it slipped through his fin­gers.

He had won five con­sec­u­tive ti­tles in Flush­ing Mead­ows and was a game away from a sixth in 2009 when Juan Martin del Potro pulled out a fourth-set tiebreaker and then won the fifth set.

“I still wish I could have played that match again,” Federer said Fri­day.

He never has been that close to win­ning the U.S. Open since, reach­ing the fi­nal just once.

That would have been hard to imag­ine then, when Federer would steam­roll into New York at the tail end of some of the great­est sea­sons in ten­nis his­tory. He was 247-15 from 2004 to ’06 and knew he would fig­ure things out across seven matches on the hard courts in a city where he is so com­fort­able.

“For a long pe­riod I was not los­ing much,” Federer said, “and when I came to the Open I had all the an­swers for all the guys, all my op­po­nents (and) all con­di­tions — wind, night, day. I re­ally em­braced ev­ery­thing about New York.”

He still does, which is why — at 37 and a full decade re­moved from his last ti­tle here — Federer be­lieves he can suc­ceed again at the year’s fi­nal Grand Slam tour­na­ment and col­lect a male-record 21st ma­jor when main-draw play be­gins Mon­day. A sixth U.S. Open ti­tle would break a tie with Jimmy Con­nors and Pete Sam­pras for the Roger Federer shows off the tro­phy af­ter win­ning the 2008 U.S. Open — his fifth in a row but also his most re­cent one.

most in the pro­fes­sional era.

“It would mean the world to me,” Federer said.

No­vak Djokovic just beat Federer in the fi­nal in Cincin­nati, and the Wimbledon cham­pion might be the fa­vorite in New York. De­fend­ing cham­pion Rafael Nadal is the top seed af­ter tak­ing back the No. 1 rank­ing that Federer had re­gained ear­lier this sea­son for the first

time in five years, and del Potro is up to a ca­reer-best No. 3 in the world and proved again last year that he could han­dle Federer at the U.S. Open when he stopped him in the quar­ter­fi­nals.

Yet few would count out No. 2 seed Federer, even as er­ratic as his gifted game looked against Djokovic last week­end in Ohio.

“If you are play­ing well be­fore, (it’s) eas­ier to play well in the Grand Slam,” Nadal said. “No doubt of that. At the same time it’s true a few play­ers are able to in­crease the level of con­cen­tra­tion, level of ten­nis, level of in­ten­sity in some places. If you have to do it, this is one of the places.”

Federer hasn’t done it in the big­gest mo­ments over

the last decade.

The 2009 loss to del Potro was fol­lowed by semi­fi­nal de­feats against Djokovic in 2010 and 2011, when Federer blew two match points in both. He fi­nally got back to the fi­nal in 2015 but was beaten by Djokovic. He missed the 2016 tour­na­ment be­cause of a knee in­jury.

Federer won the Aus­tralian

U.S. OPEN

Women’s fi­nal: Sept. 8. Men’s fi­nal: Sept. 9.

Top women’s seeds

■ 1. Si­mona Halep

■ 2. Caro­line Woz­ni­acki

■ 3. Sloane Stephens*

■ 4. An­gelique Ker­ber

■ 5. Pe­tra Kvi­tova

Top men’s seeds

■ 1. Rafael Nadal*

■ 2. Roger Federer

■ 3. Juan Martin del Potro

■ 4. Alexan­der Zverev

■ 5. Kevin An­der­son Purse: $53 mil­lion. The men’s and women’s cham­pi­ons re­ceive $3.8 mil­lion each.

Open and Wimbledon in a resur­gent 2017, but he tweaked his back while reach­ing the Mon­treal fi­nal and knew his body and game weren’t in shape by the time he got to New York.

“I knew from the get-go it was not go­ing to be pos­si­ble for me to win,” Federer said. “Ev­ery­thing would have had to fall into place.”

So he was even more cau­tious in mon­i­tor­ing his sched­ule this year, sit­ting out the clay-court sea­son again and pulling out of Toronto, mak­ing Cincin­nati his only hard-court warmup. That has left Federer with only four tour­na­ments in five months and per­haps ex­plains some of the shots that once were win­ners but were sprayed around the court against Djokovic.

Federer won’t sec­ondguess his sched­ul­ing, believ­ing he has made the right de­ci­sions for his prepa­ra­tion. Nor will he kick him­self over the U.S. Opens lost over the last decade.

“I won the U.S. Open five times, so I stand here pretty happy,” Federer said. It’s not like, ‘God, the U.S. Open never worked out for me.’ It hasn’t the last cou­ple years, but it’s all good.”

AL BELLO/GETTY

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