US Open 2019: Can Roger Federer win another title at Flushing Meadows?
While fans of the Swiss great were still having nightmares of the Wimbledon final against Novak Djokovic, they got to witness Roger Federer bowing out to the young Russian Andrey Rublev in the third round match of the Cincinnati Masters. Sure, Federer will have a lot of positives to take away from this year, but the question now is: Will they be sufficient to motivate him for yet another Major title?
The US Open has a strange recent history, as no player since 2008 has been able to defend their title. This includes the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray; the only player to have defended the title successfully in the 2000s has been Federer (from 2005 to 2008). Notably, those were the years when Federer was at his absolute peak.
Since then, it has been a drought for Federer as he has only managed to reach the final on two occasions (one in 2009 and the other in 2015), losing to Juan Martin del Potro and Novak Djokovic respectively.
The US Open, being the last of the year's four Majors, has had the privilege of witnessing a different champion every year, and it gives an opportunity for others besides the top three to win big.
Coming to Federer's draw at Flushing Meadows, there seem to be no great dangers for the 20-time Major champion until the quarterfinals. After a potential scare in the first round against World No. 190 Sumit Nagal, Federer will be aware of his opponents' strengths and weaknesses in the coming few matches.
His potential quarter-final opponent could be either Kei Nishikori or Borna Coric, and he might possibly have to play David Gofffin in the fourth round. Federer has excellent records against both Goffin and Nishikori, and he would be fancied to go past them and meet Djokovic in the semis.
But Federer has looked vulnerable at the US Open, at least in the past two years, as he lost to Del Potro and John Millman before the semis. Last year, he said he couldn't get enough air on the court and that he was happy the match got over when it did. Later, a few other players also talked about the conditions being brutal.
Compared to the remaining three Majors, the US Open has been a different experience for Federer as he has had to put in a lot of physical effort for every single match and also battle the heat. That makes it supremely important to avoid exhaustion in the early rounds.
If Federer is able to find a way to get through his first few matches with minimal effort, he will have a better chance of defeating either Djokovic or Nadal (possibly in the final). Both these two seem to be in better form than Federer right now, and are being tipped by many to meet each other for the umpteenth time in the finals.
Djokovic will really have to fight hard to get into the final as he has players like Stan Wawrinka, Daniil Medvedev and Federer in his way. On the other hand, Nadal has got the likes of Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and John Isner to beat.
When compared with the other two, Federer has a relatively easier draw and he will be keen to make the most of it and capture another Major this year. More than his mental strength, his physical stamina will be tested in the coming two weeks at the US Open; it will be interesting to see the tactics Federer employs to escape from playing long rallies.
Even in his opening match against Nagal, Federer had a shaky start. Although his serve was exceptional in the second and third sets, it fell flat once again in the middle of the fourth set. Amongst all the shots he has, the serve is going to be a vital force for Federer to have a realistic chance at winning his 21st Major.
So the serve and the adaptability to difficult conditions are going to be prime factors if Federer wants to extend his run into the second week. His next two matches could potentially give an idea of where his game is and how he's feeling on the court.
Federer's expected route to the title
1st Round: Def. Sumit Nagal 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4
2nd Round: Damir Dzumhur.
3rd Round: Lucas Pouille
4th Round: David Goffin
Quarterfinal: Kei Nishikori / Borna Coric
Semifinal: Novak Djokovic
Final: Rafael Nadal