August 24, 2014 in Sports

Roger Federer’s confidence soaring before US Open

Rachel Cohen Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Seventeen-time major champion Roger Federer returned to the Wimbledon final this year and won in Cincinnati earlier this month.
(Full-size photo)

Facing ‘the future’

Serena Williams calls her first U.S. Open opponent “the future of American tennis.” Eighteen-year-old Taylor Townsend is a former top-ranked junior player who reached the third round at the French Open this year. Williams said Saturday that the two are “really good friends” who talk and text often.

Townsend is playing in the U.S. Open main draw for the first time after receiving a wild card, and her debut couldn’t get any bigger, facing the 17-time major champion at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday.

NEW YORK – The question made Roger Federer smile.

Nothing particularly amusing about asking how he adjusts from playing mostly night matches in the U.S. Open’s early rounds to the daytime starts at the end. But the assumption behind the query was cause for delight.

“It’s perfect that we’re talking semis and finals already,” Federer said. “It wasn’t like that last year.”

No, last year at this time the questions were about whether a remarkable career was sputtering to a halt. He had lost in the second round at Wimbledon and arrived at the U.S. Open wary of a balky back and seeded seventh.

“Last year I was trying to convince myself I did have an opportunity,” he conceded Saturday.

“I just kind of felt like it was always going to be for me hard beating top-five, top-10 players,” Federer added. “I felt like I had little margin against guys ranked just outside of the top 10 to No. 30 in the world.”

He was right. The 17-time major champion lost in the fourth round to 22nd-ranked Tommy Robredo.

“The confidence was going away quickly,” Federer said.

“And so it was just not as clear-cut and simple as it is this year.”

Because this year, a deep run in New York again seems as routine as the celebrities who dot the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Federer took Novak Djokovic to a tense fifth set in the Wimbledon final, reached the title match at the hard-court tuneup in Toronto, then won in Cincinnati. He’s seeded a far more familiar No. 2 at Flushing Meadows with second-ranked Rafael Nadal sidelined by a wrist injury.

And considering Federer’s lopsided losing record against the Spaniard, the draw is looking mighty friendly.

The Swiss great wouldn’t meet Djokovic until the final. David Ferrer – 0-16 against Federer – is a potential semifinal opponent.

The U.S. Open begins Monday with Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens among the big names playing in the day session. Maria Sharapova and Djokovic take the court on Ashe for the night session.

It’s been more than two years since Federer padded his record by winning his 17th Grand Slam title. By the end of 2013, it looked as though he might stay stuck on that number forever.

Federer brought on an idol, Stefan Edberg, as coach this year. Under the six-time major champ, he’s moving forward far more, ending points quickly and saving the wear and tear on his 33-year-old body. Federer came to the net 67 times in the Wimbledon final.

“This isn’t something new or that people weren’t suggesting he do for years,” ESPN analyst John McEnroe said.

“Seems like Edberg maybe more than other coaches has gotten into his head at this stage of his career that that is going to help him.”

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