NEW YORK, August 25, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)
To see Roger Federer on US Open Media Day Friday or throughout the past week, while being very much in the public’s eye each time he practiced, is to catch a keen glimpse of the Federer psyche. He goes about his business under the guidance and watchful eye of his team, but he’s also his own person. Federer enjoys having fun and, definitely, he puts on a show that leaves everyone feeling satisfied.
While the 38-year-old Federer has won the US Open five times (2004-08) and been a finalist (2009, 2015) on two other occasions, he’s not lifted the champion’s trophy since 2008. He admitted during his Media Day session that he’s looking forward to competing this year, and he’ll command the largest stage in tennis on Opening Night Monday when he faces 190th-ranked qualifier Sumit Nagal, just 22, from India on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I’m not putting extra pressure on myself,” said Federer, who comes in ranked No. 3 in the world and with an 85-13 lifetime record over 17 years at the US Open. “I know it’s going to be tough. I’m not coming in as the overwhelming favorite like maybe I did back in 2006 or 2007. I’m very much aware of how I need to approach this tournament mentally.
“I’ve been playing well. Playing well in Slams recently, which has been great. I think also the win over Rafa in the semis was big for me. Also the finals, the way I played that in Wimbledon, is going to give me some extra confidence. It’s going to be a tough tournament to win, no doubt about it. I feel like I’m part of that group who can do it.”
In Federer’s last Grand Slam, at Wimbledon earlier this summer, he reached the final against Novak Djokovic, who is the top seed at the US Open, and took the World No. 1 to a deciding fifth-set tie-break before losing 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6 13-12 (3). At four hours and 57 minutes, it was the longest men’s singles final in Wimbledon history.
While the Wimbledon defeat stung, it took only a few days for Federer to put it behind him.
“I struggled a little bit the first couple days,” admitted Federer. “At the same time, I was caravaning with my kids. I didn’t have that much time thinking about all the missed opportunities. I was setting up tables and organizing my life for my four children, driving around the beautiful countryside in Switzerland. Sometimes you have flashbacks, things like, ‘Oh, I could have done that, should have done that.’ The next day you’re having a glass of wine with your wife thinking, ‘The semis was pretty good, the final was pretty good.’ You go in phases. It took me maybe a couple of days just to sort of get those things out of the system, like it takes with everything. Then first couple days back playing tennis, as well, you have a few flashbacks.”
The Wimbledon title was Djokovic’s 16th Grand Slam crown, which places him four behind Federer’s 20 for first place and two behind Rafael Nadal’s 18 for second. “If I look back, I’m very happy I was part of such an entertaining match as well,” said Federer, who shares the same half of the draw as Djokovic and could face him in the semifinals. “We are in entertainment, as well. The crowd paid big money to be part of this match. I was part of the main show with Novak. We put up a great fight. Somebody had to win. Novak was the better man on the day.”
Since Wimbledon, Federer resurfaced from his summer vacation in Switzerland to play in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, the last major North American hard court tuneup for the US Open. He opened with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Juan Ignacio Londero before losing in the next round to Andrey Rublev by the same score.
Arriving in New York a week before his opening match allowed Federer time to make a public appearance at the Fifth Avenue Uniqlo shop on behalf of his clothing sponsor and also to become acclimated with the weather and the court conditions at Billie Jean National Tennis Center. A practice hit with Dominic Thiem packed the Grandstand court on Thursday. All is good for Federer as he begins pursuit of his 21st career Grand Slam.
“We were talking on the practice court yesterday or two days ago, this is probably the best I’ve felt in years coming into the US Open again, which is encouraging,” said Federer, whose success in New York has included advancing to at least the fourth round of the US Open in his past 17 appearances, dating back to 2001. “I’m happy where my game is at.”