Federer: 'I Needed To Get Knocked Down In Cincy, Get My Act Together'
Roger Federer has won the US Open five times, but all of those victories in Flushing Meadows came in consecutive years from 2004-08. Nevertheless, the 38-year-old arrives in New York confident as he begins his pursuit of a 21st Grand Slam title.
“We were talking on the practice court yesterday or two days ago, this is probably the best I've felt in years coming into the US Open again, which is encouraging,” Federer said.
The Swiss superstar has long enjoyed success at the season’s final major, advancing to at least the fourth round in his past 17 appearances, dating back to 2001. But since his string of championships here, Federer has made the final just twice, in 2009 and 2015.
“It hasn't always been easy here,” Federer said. “Two years ago I came in with a back issue a little bit, I had a struggle early on with five-setters. I remember Tiafoe and others. That set the tone the tournament was going to be tough. Last year I struggled with the heat against Millman… 2016 I missed it entirely.
“I mean, look, I have no explanation why it didn't go as well as it did. I think [I was] a bit unlucky [with health] for sure, also. That was part of it.”
Although Federer has a strong 85-13 record at this tournament, he has not lifted the trophy in New York in 11 years. The World No. 3 doesn’t feel an itch to rejoin the winners’ circle here just because of that compared to his usual desire to triumph, though.
“I'm not putting extra pressure on myself. I know it's going to be tough. I'm not coming in as the overwhelming favourite like maybe I did back in 2006 or 2007. I'm very much aware of how I need to approach this tournament mentally,” Federer said. “What I'm very proud of is I've had a very consistent last year and a half, two years, ever since my back locked up on me in Montreal. I struggled here as well, struggled for quite a while.
“I've been playing well. Playing well in Slams recently, which has been great. I think also the win over Rafa in the semis [of Wimbledon] was big for me. Also the finals, the way I played that in Wimbledon, is going to give me some extra confidence.”
Federer was desperately close to claiming his ninth Wimbledon title, earning two championship points against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic. But the Serbian was able to capitalise on a missed forehand from the Swiss and a passing shot from his own racquet to stay in the match, before emerging victorious after a final-set tie-break at 12-all.
“I struggled a little bit the first couple days. At the same time I was caravaning with my kids. I didn't have that much time thinking about all the missed opportunities. I was setting up tables and organising my life for my four children, driving around the beautiful countryside in Switzerland,” Federer said. “Sometimes you have flashbacks, things like, ‘Oh, I could have done that, should have done that.’ The next day you're having a glass of wine with your wife thinking, ‘The semis was pretty good, even the finals was pretty good.’ You go in phases.
“We put up a great fight. Somebody had to win. Novak was the better man on the day. He was tough. I don't know. I've been there before, had some tough losses along the way. So many great wins, as well. I was just more upset rather than being sad. I think being upset made me get over that finals much easier than being sad, dwelling over it too much.”
In his only tournament since Wimbledon, Federer was upset in the third round of the Western & Southern Open by Andrey Rublev. The last three times Federer lost that early in Cincinnati (‘08 R16, ‘06 R32 & ‘04 R1), he went on to lift the US Open trophy.
“I'm happy where my game is at. Cincinnati might be a good thing that I lost early, who knows. It's maybe one of those things that sometimes needs to happen, like when I won at the Australian Open, went to Dubai, lost first round in '17, then went on to win Indian Wells and Miami,” Federer said. “Maybe the same thing, played a great Wimbledon. Needed to get knocked down in Cincy, get my act together, train hard. That's what I did. I'm ready for the US Open.
“It's going to be a tough tournament to win, no doubt about it. I feel like I'm part of that group who can do it.”