Federer may rise from the dead one more time – but not at Flushing Meadows
Rafael Nadal just one formidable obstacle at US Open for world number seven
Roger Federer: Standing in his way at Flushing Meadows as early as the quarter-finals of a tournament he has won five times is Rafael Nadal, who has won not only 21 of their 31 contests but 53 of his 56 matches this year. Photograph: John Sommers II/Reuters
It is profoundly sad that every Roger Federer press conference now resembles the reading of a will. But that is the way it is and shall remain for a man who has just turned 32, until he pleases the multitude to rise from the dead one more time.
That miracle will probably not happen at Flushing Meadows this year. And, if he misses the boat in New York, there are few attractive stopping-off points left for him elsewhere.
He has to muster his resources now. Standing in his way as early as the quarter-finals of a tournament he has won five times is Rafael Nadal, who has won not only 21 of their 31 contests but 53 of his 56 matches this year.
If, somehow, Federer were to beat Nadal the world number seven will have the prospect of beating one of the young lions of the Tour – Jerzy Janowicz, Ernests Gulbis or Milos Raonic – for the right to challenge Andy Murray or Djokovic, still the bookmakers’ favourite and twice a tormentor of the Swiss in the semi-finals here.
So it was his final pre-tournament assessment was booked up to the gills; there was not a hack in the place who did not want to listen to Federer’s prognosis on himself.
Of the many ways to butter a parsnip, telling Federer “it is unusual to see you at number seven” in the world rankings is probably not at the top of the list and he took the opportunity to point out:
“Number seven I don’t think is a huge drop from number four but people are going to say what they like. [What is]important is that I concentrate on my game and that the passion is there, that I work the right way, that I’m prepared and then that I feel like I can win a tournament.”
Ultimately, when hope replaces ambition, an athlete is in trouble. Federer, it is universally acknowledged, is in as much trouble as any old champion on the ropes. He has a right cross poised in every exchange. Can he throw it? We will find out soon enough.