Fed’s Last Opportunity?

Aug 31, 2011 by

Roger Federer kicked off day one of the US Open with a leisurely victory over unseeded Columbian Santiago Giraldo.  Federer displayed beautiful shot making throughout his straight set win, though there were a few instances, especially late in the opening set, when Federer’s mind wandered somewhere far-off in the distance, miles and miles away from the bright lights of NYC.

Roger Federer is 30 years old, married with two young children, and has more than enough cash for three lifetimes.  His concentration drifts away during best of five matches now, even in finals.  His success on the courts is unmatched by anyone.  Tennis has been good to him and he has been great for tennis.  He will someday retire as all the greats of this sport eventually must do and we will one day miss seeing his greatness.

Roger Federer is too stubborn to retire.  The 2011 US Open will not play host to a Federer retirement party.  Tennis fans around the globe will witness plenty of play from the former number one for years to come.  However, this US Open could represent the final golden opportunity for a 17th major.  I am not sold that Federer can win another major, but I would not bet the farm against it either.

Rafael Nadal played Ralphie to Federer’s Scott Farkus, in the ATP Tour’s adaptation of the film, A Christmas Story.  No one had the balls, or the game, to take a stand against Federer. He pummeled opponents with graceful court movement and effortless breathtaking shots.  Nothing could shake him, his dry matter-of-fact attitude and easy confidence only added to his legend.   It begged the question, how many majors over twenty could he compile?  Then one day, Nadal arrived on the school playground and punched Federer hard in the stomach, then the face.  The bully was left bruised and battered.  Experiencing shortness of breath and sporting a black eye, Federer began playing nice with all the children.  Nadal continued the beat downs of Federer slamming the door on the dominant run that many swore would never end.

This US Open, however, Rafael Nadal doesn’t feel so well.  Since his Wimbledon final loss to Novak Djokovic, he has played sparingly.  Nadal has experienced fatigue, nagging injuries, and even severely burnt fingers a few weeks ago from a scalding hot plate at a restaurant.  Confidence is at an all-time-low with Nadal, which is very much needed for anyone planning a deep run at the US Open.  If Nadal is knocked out sooner than expected, will a path be cleared for Federer?

Novak Djokovic has crazy eyes and there is something a little off about him.  His mental patient stare and superb play has him in the midst of an unbelievable year.  Along with two major titles, his play has netted a 2011 won-loss record of 62-2.  He is ranked number one in the world, it’s not even debatable.  The VIP section of the Nadal Federer night club has an uninvited guest and he’s not leaving.  Nadal can’t do anything against Djokovic, losing five straight times to him this year.  However, Federer shows glimpse s of past confidence when matched up against the Serb.  Unlike playing against Nadal, Federer truly believes he should win every time they both step on the court against each other.  Federer has a career record of 14 wins and 9 losses with Djokovic. If Federer can make quick work of a few early round opponents and conserve some energy needed for week two, he might have something left in the tank and give Djokovic an early plane ticket home.

Roger Federer will never allow for Andy Murray to beat him in a major.  Murray is perfectly fine with this agreement.

Of the 32 seeds so far not mentioned, three come to mind when evaluating the slim odds of Federer’s chance for a sixth US Open and 17th Grand Slam title.  Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Tomas Berdych are all big hitters that pose a huge threat to Federer.  All three play him tough and each have bounced Federer from a major.  If these three somehow do not cross the path of Federer, and Rafael Nadal continues with his uneven play, Federer could have a chance to be in another Sunday final.  If that happens, anything is possible.

If the tennis gods indeed make some obstacles disappear, and his mind doesn’t wane on big points, we could very well witness the last true opportunity for Federer to be anointed King of the New York hard courts.

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