Wednesday, September 9, 2015
U.S. Open: Federer's Last Chance to Win?
Roger Federer, now 34-years-old, will not have many more chances to add to his already impressive Grand Slam tally, however, with the quarterfinal lineup at the U.S. Open complete, this could be the best chance he will get to win another Grand Slam.
Federer started the year poorly, losing in the third round to Andreas Seppi. Once again, pundits and fans were questioning whether Federer would ever be able to compete at the highest level again and win Grand Slams. And perhaps, for once, they had a point given that this was the fourth time in eight Grand Slams that he had failed to get past the fourth round and the first time since 2003 that he hadn't reached the quarterfinals in Australia.
From there, he went to Dubai and silenced some of his critics by defeating Novak Djokovic and he reached the final in Indian wells, this time losing to Djokovic. A quarterfinals at Roland Garros and a final at Wimbledon were solid performances.
Wimbledon highlighted something, in particular, for me and that is that, on his day, he can still be unbeatable. In the semifinal against Andy Murray, he produced some of the best tennis he has ever produced. He constantly had Murray under pressure and, with the possible exception of the epic Wimbledon final in 2009 against Andy Roddick, he hasn't demonstrated such a fine serving master class.
The problem was, however, that he struggled to reproduce that form in the final against Djokovic, although some of this can be put down to the astute play of Djokovic to negate the threats Federer had displayed against Murray. It did highlight, however, the difficulty Federer now faces beating two of the very best back-to-back in the semifinals and final. It is the same problem those outside the top four used to have when they were faced with the prospect of having to beat any two, or even three, of Djokovic, Federer, Murray, and Rafael Nadal in order to win a Grand Slam.
Prior to the U.S. Open, Federer won in Cincinnati for the seventh time doing what he couldn't in London. He beat Murray in the semifinal before going on to beat Djokovic in the final. It is one thing, however, to do this in best-of-three sets matches and another to do it in best-of-five set matches.
As the U.S. Open reaches the final stages Federer can be very pleased with the quarterfinal lineup, largely because the Murray was defeated by Kevin Anderson in the fourth round and Murray was a potential semifinal opponent. Federer, himself, faces Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals which is about as good a match up as he could've wished for at this stage. It is four years since Gasquet last beat Federer and even then it is only one of two victories he has managed over the Swiss in 16 attempts.
A semifinal awaits against Anderson or Wawrinka and he'll be confident against either of them, despite losing his last match against Wawrinka at this year's French Open. Nevertheless, Federer has a 16-3 record over his compatriot and has won all of their meetings on American hard courts. Federer has a perfect 4-0 record over Anderson, not dropping a set in any of their encounters, and defeating his en-route to his Cincinnati title a few weeks ago with an easy 6-1, 6-1 victory.
In all likelihood, if Federer reaches the final, he will have to play his nemesis, Djokovic. However, I think he will be better equipped to come out on top this time. Federer has eased to this stage, winning all his matches in straight sets with his biggest tests in the fourth round where John Isner took him to three tie-breaks, but this is no surprise given the serving quality of Isner.
I expect Federer to comfortably defeat Gasquet and he could do the same against Wawrinka, although I do think Wawrinka will pose more of a threat. This will leave Federer ready, prepared and fresh to face Djokovic. For some time I've believed that Federer needs help from others to win another Grand Slam with others taking out a potential threat and that has happened with Murray being disposed of in the fourth round. He may even get further help as Djokovic could lose before the final, so while he may not end up victorious he may never get a better chance to do so again.