Federer seeks six of the best at US Open

Roger Federer will bid to become the first man in 84 years to win six straight US Open titles.

updated: August 31, 2009 15:51 IST
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New York:

Roger Federer will bid to become the first man in 84 years to win six straight US Open titles when the Swiss star opens the defence of his crown at Flushing Meadows from Monday.

The last time six-in-row happened here was in 1925 when "Big" Bill Tilden defeated William Johnston for the fifth time in six years on the grasscourts of Forest Hills.

The 28-year-old Swiss star knows that a new wave of younger players are closing in on him and are sure to make it hard in boisterous New York, but he insists he is fit and ready to retain his crown.

Evidence of this came last weekend when he scored back-to-back straight sets wins over two of his main challengers, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, to win the Cincinnati Masters.

That followed a record-busting summer when Federer won the French Open and Wimbledon to pass the 14 Grand Slam titles leading mark of Pete Sampras, regained his world number one spot from Rafael Nadal and then, with wife Mirka, celebrated the birth of twin girls.

Indeed Federer has lost just the once, to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals of the Montreal Masters, since the start of May.

That is in stark contrast to this time last year when Federer had lost his beloved Wimbledon crown and number one ranking to Nadal and also lost early at the Beijing Olympics as he struggled for form.

"I was lucky enough that when I got to the New York that the fans were trying to push me back to number one right away," he said.

"All the cab drivers and everybody was stopping to wish me luck. It was something that I've never really experienced before in New York and I think that really helped turn it around for me.

"Because after having the disappointment at Wimbledon and also in Beijing ...I was sort of disappointed coming into the US Open

"The fans for me really turned it around and that's why this year I'm so excited about going back. I've had even better results, so I hope I can show them what I can do on a tennis court."

Federer certainly knows what it takes to win in New York having chalked up 35 straight wins since losing to David Nalbandian in the fourth round in 2003. Indeed only twice - against Andre Agassi in the 2004 quarter-finals and in the fourth round last year against Igor Andreev - has he been taken to five sets.

Unlike last year the main challenge is not expected to come from Nadal, who has just returned to action following the 10-week layoff he took to heal his painful knees after losing his French Open crown to Robin Soderling, and who admits to not yet being back to his best both physically and mentally.

Instead the 22-year-olds Murray and Djokovic are well placed to contend especially as they comprise the last two losing finalists to Federer in New York.

Murray in particular is a threat having won five titles this year already to take the world number two spot away from Nadal.

He also enjoys a winning 6-3 career record over Federer although he was brushed aside by the Swiss in straight sets in last year's US Open final and lost to him last week in Cincinnati.

However, the Scot said that he had had "the perfect preparation" for New York with his win at the Montreal Masters and run into the semis in Cincinnati and his fitness appears to be markedly better that it was last year.

Djokovic is also returning to top form just in time for New York, evidence of which was his straight sets dismissal of Nadal in the Cincinnati semi-finals and he is looking to new coach Todd Martin to fire his challenge for a second Grand Slam title after the 2008 Australian Open.

"Being a two-times finalist of the Grand Slams and being a top five player and playing on a highest tennis level for a long time, makes him very experienced," he said of the American.

"I'm very, very happy, and I really look forward to it. He's got a lot of ideas and things I can improve on, a lot of things in my game."

Leading the home challenge will once again be Andy Roddick, the last home player to win the title in 2003, the year before Federer's reign began.

Marriage and a new fitness regime have sparked a revival in his fortunes epitomised by the five-set classic he drew out of Federer in the Wimbledon final in July.