With defending champion Rafael Nadal announcing Monday that he was withdrawing from the 2014 U.S. Open due to a wrist injury, Roger Federer now appears to have his best shot at winning a Grand Slam title since his Wimbledon triumph in 2012.
Due to Nadal’s absence, Novak Djokovic and Federer will now be the tournament’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, meaning that they wouldn’t face one another until the final. The pair have met five times overall at the U.S. Open, with Federer holding a 3-2 edge. However, Djokovic has won each of their past two meetings, the most recent being in the 2011 semifinals.
Though a rematch between Federer and Djokovic after their sensational, five-set duel in the Wimbledon final is intriguing, Djokovic is no guarantee to make it to the final.
Since taking time off following his victory at Wimbledon and marriage to his longtime girlfriend in July, Djokovic has been unimpressive in two events during the North American summer hard-court season. He collected just two wins total in the two tournaments, falling in the third round in both Toronto and Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, Federer has played like a man on a mission since his heartbreaking loss at Wimbledon. He’s gone 9-1 during the summer hard-court season, capturing his sixth title in Cincinnati at the Western & Southern Open just one week after falling to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the final of the Rogers Cup.
Aside from Djokovic, there will be a slew of other challengers bidding for the title in Flushing Meadows.
The list includes 2012 U.S. Open champion Andy Murray, Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka, Tsonga, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic, Tomáš Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov. While each is a worthy adversary, Federer has had success against all of them and has beaten all of them except Dimitrov this year.
Having turned 33 just two weeks ago and playing in his record 60th consecutive Grand Slam tournament, Federer is in the twilight of his career and is running out of time to add to his record total of 17 Grand Slam titles. He won five U.S. Open titles in a row from 2004 to 2008. But since his last championship in 2008, he’s made the final just once (2009) and hasn’t been to the semifinals since 2011.
While this may seem to suggest that Federer might not have enough in the tank to win a U.S. Open (or any Grand Slam for that matter) his 2014 resurgence and incredible run at Wimbledon would say otherwise.
Federer continues to defy Father Time and remain one of the world’s elite tennis players. The hunger and drive to capture his 18th Grand Slam title is clearly still there, shown on full display at Wimbledon when he fought off a Djokovic match point during a rally in which he won five straight games to force a fifth set. Though he ended up falling to Djokovic in what was unquestionably the best tennis match of the year, Federer showed that he still is capable of hanging with the best players in the world today.
With Nadal out, Djokovic struggling and Federer carrying plenty of momentum into Flushing Meadows, the 2014 U.S. Open looks like it could potentially be the site of the Swiss legend’s historic 18th Grand Slam title. The stage is set, and tennis fans can now only wait to see what unfolds.
Roger Federer, the ball is in your court.