If there was any doubt as to who was the best man in Tennis after Federer lost in the Olympics final and took the Canadian Masters off, came his fantastic tournament at Cincinnati, including the win over Novak Djokovic in the final (6-0, 7-6), making the number one player on the ATP rankings the number one favorite to win the 2012 US Open.
Tied for first in the US Open along with Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors with 5 wins each at Queens, Federer is also the only player to win the tournament five years in a row (2004-2008), which makes it quite surprising to see he hasn’t been able to win it for three straight years. In 2009 it was Juan Martin Del Potro who beat Federer in the final, denying Federer a three-slam season, in a fantastic five set match seeing Del Potro win two tiebreaks coming back from 0-1 and 1-2 down.
In 2010 it was another brilliant five set match, this time in the semifinals, between Djokovic and Federer. Novak, like Del Potro, came back from 0-1 and 1-2 down in sets and saw Federer blow match points in the fifth to take it 7-5. A year later, again a Federer – Djokovic semifinal. Federer already led 2-0, but 2011 was Nole’s year, and he was simply impossible, or close to impossible to beat. Federer had two match points but he blew them and Djokovic went on to win his third Grand Slam title of the year.
The three slam titles have been divided this year between the top 3 – Djokovic (Australia), Nadal (French) and Federer (Wimbledon). Andy Murray took the Olympic gold, but that’s still not cutting it. He’s on the Djokovic side of the draw, hoping to reach his second final at Flushing Meadows and take advantage of his newly found edge of Roger Federer, or at least what he thinks it is.
If the Slam dominance isn’t enough, a look at the Masters tournaments show there’s truly no kind of parity between the top 3 in the world (which Nadal will probably be slipping out of by the end of the season). Federer has won three Masters tournaments (Indian Wells, Madrid, Cincinnati), Nadal (Rome, Monte Carlo) and Djokovic (Miami, Toronto) have won two each. Djokovic has also reached three more Masters finals.
Andy Murray made one Miami final and one in Wimbledon. Murray has lost to Djokovic in Miami and the Australian Open, where Novak pulled another comeback from 1-2 down. In the Olympic games, Murray, maybe thanks to the crowd, was too much, winning in straight sets.
But then Murray came to Cincinnati and lost to Jeremy Chardy in the third round. Maybe he was still rusty after taking a bit of time off after his gold medal, but that doesn’t make you feel too confident about his chances in New York.
Djokovic feels that whatever it is that his put him off his game in Wimbledon and Cincinnati might be fixed in the next two weeks. Citing a slower surface to those he lost on to Federer as an advantage might be true. He did very well against Federer on Clay this season, but still, with Federer healthy, and these being Hard Courts, it’s hard to look past him as to the tournament winner. He’s got the intimidation factor back on, which seems to be the biggest thing he missed in 2011, his only year since 2002 without a Grand Slam title.
Juan Martin Del Potro is another one with a shot, but it’s hard to see it happening again for him, like it did three years ago. It’s Federer above the rest, with Djokovic hoping to get his shot making to the level it was earlier this year, when he was still riding high on the waves of 2011. Without that, mental toughness won’t be too much help when he’s simply outplayed by the best player in the world.