x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Roger Federer finding his best ahead of the US Open

The world No 1 is in ominous form for the US Open, though Djokovic will find Flushing Meadows a better suit for his play.

Roger Federer, right, beat Novak Djokovic, left, in Cincinnati.
Roger Federer, right, beat Novak Djokovic, left, in Cincinnati.

We have a new, clear favourite for the US Open beginning on August 27, a Mr Roger Federer from Basel, Switzerland.

As noted this past February in Dubai, he's an up-and-comer, trying to make a name for himself at 31, and recent indicators show promise.

In the 27 matches and 82 sets Federer had played against Novak Djokovic, there had never been a 6-0 set, until the 28th match and the 83rd set and the latest mark of Federer's fine year.

His 6-0, 7-6 win in the final in Cincinnati gave him 76 career titles, 21 Masters series titles (tying Rafael Nadal at the top) and, tellingly, six titles for this hello-again year, including that one in Dubai.

"I was hoping for a good start, but not like that," he said thereafter.

What tennis fans can hope for, it is clear, is this fine, persistent jockeying among three great players, with Andy Murray on the inner fringe. Nadal rules the game; no, wait, Djokovic rules the game; no, wait, Federer rules the game:

It is probably time to stop guessing and resume appreciating an uncommon era, while realising that 31 is not what it used to be, thank goodness.

Twenty minutes, that first set took, with all of 10 points going to Djokovic.

So while the temptation would be to note Djokovic's mild decline from his otherworldly 2011, when he finished the US Open at 64-2 with three major titles, it would seem more sensible to note the balance among the three across three years, and to appreciate how each contributes to that balance by motivating the others, and to bemoan Nadal's coming absence from the US Open.

Federer looks sublime again, and he did hold four match points on Djokovic in the last two US Opens, yet Djokovic did save those match points to ultimately prevail, and does loom as the defending champion on hard courts that are slower - and more suited to him - than Cincinnati's hard courts.

"It was a great, great year," Djokovic said of 2011 in Cincinnati. "It's really difficult to expect that I can repeat anything like that. And I wasn't trying to aim for that."

As time has shown, it would be irrational to aim for that with a Federer still around.

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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