Fed up against it
Can Roger Federer retain his US Open crown? Elliot Ball wonders if the legend can bounce back at Flushing Meadows
By Elliot Ball. Last Updated: 27/08/08 4:26pm
Federer: Facing tough challenge to retain US Open crown
This year has been a disaster for former world number one Roger Federer. The Swiss has failed to win a Grand Slam in 2008 while only picking up two minor titles.
Although the 27-year-old contested both the French Open and Wimbledon finals, he came up short against the newly-crowned number one Rafael Nadal - the man many people are calling his nemesis.
And to make matters worse the Spaniard clinched another of Federer's main targets - a singles gold at the Olympics.
As The US Open arrives, Federer is desperately clinging onto his last Grand Slam title from 2007 as his career hangs in the balance.
As it marks the 40th anniversary of the open era, the US Open will have an opening ceremony parading more than two dozen former singles champions including Federer. Will the Swiss be resigned to the old guard of former winners or will he remain a present champion with what would be his fifth consecutive US Open crown?
This year the US Open will have a dedicated channel on YouTube and it is not the only thing that represents a new era in tennis, with Nadal playing at Flushing Meadows as the new world number one.
If Federer and Nadal contest this year's final it will be their first hard-court showdown in a Grand Slam. Nadal is still looking supreme after winning seven of his last nine tournaments, while Olympic doubles gold medallist Federer will be looking to extend his sequence in the final slam of the calendar.
John McEnroe, four-time US Open champion, knows a thing or two about major rivalries having battled the likes of Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl in classic matches in New York. 'Mac' reckons that it is now foolish to see Federer as an automatic to break all-time Grand Slam title holder Pete Sampras' record of 14 majors.
"Let's put it this way, Pete's sleeping a little better than he was about five months ago," McEnroe said on the tournament's official website. "He's thinking, 'Maybe I actually have a chance to hold on to this thing'. It is not out of the question that 14 are going to be enough. It's not going to be as easy to just mow through it the way most of us thought.
"Pete talked about 17, 18, and I thought [Federer] was going to get it, but you always hit that spot when it starts to get tougher," he added. "When Pete hit 14 I thought, 'God who's going to get there?', and it's pretty amazing that Roger has gotten so close.
Roger is 27 and how many did Pete win after 27? It doesn't get any easier. No one, Roger, Pete - he had an incredible run too - you can't keep it up. Sooner or later the law of averages catches up."
After overtaking Federer in the rankings, Nadal will arrive in New York as the number one seed while Federer will slip to number two. The following seeds are Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Nikolay Davydenko and Andy Murray.
Bronze medallist Djokovic won the other hard court major at the Australian Open and will be the other major contender at Flushing Meadows.
Murray will be looking to recapture his Cincinnati form after a disappointing performance at the Olympics. The Scot is joint top with Nadal in the US open series standings and will be looking for a good fortnight in his favourite tournament.
American hopes lie with James Blake who finished fourth in Beijing and former US Open champion and world number eight Andy Roddick.
In the women's singles there is a battle between the old and new with Serbian duo Anna Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic going up against the Williams sisters. While the American siblings share four US Open titles, the Serbians Ivanovic and Jankovic will be the top two seeds.
A Russian quartet represents the most likely contenders in New York this year. They include number three seed and former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and Beijing medallists Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva.
The US Open begins on 25th August and all 14 days will be televised live on Sky Sports.