Don’t look now, but here comes Roger Federer. This season, Federer, who is in better shape and healthier, comes into the U.S Open with more momentum than anybody with his recent success. He has won 18 of his last 20 matches. What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, Federer entered the U.S Open seeded seventh, and would eventually lose to journeyman Tommy Robredo in the fourth round, which was his first loss to Robredo in his career.
After what Federer called a “lost year” to reporters in 2013, he went back to the drawing board. In October of 2013, Federer split with his coach Paul Annacone, who he was with for three and a half years. In December of 2013, Federer hired former tennis legend Stefan Edberg to coach him.
Edberg’s impact can be easily seen in the way Federer is playing. This year, Federer has gone back to the serve and volley. The official Wimbledon stat book shows that Federer used this tactic about every four or five shots, which is double the amount he did in 2013. Federer won 72 percent of his net points in his first six matches, and 66 percent against Djokovic, who is widely considered the best returner in the game today. Even though Federer came up just short against Novak Djokovic in a thrilling five set Wimbledon Final, it showed that Federer still has what it takes to when a major.
Changing his coach and playing style was clearly the right thing to do for Federer. A lot of people don’t realize that Federer is playing with a 98 inch head racquet this year, as opposed to the 90 inch he used in the past. As a result, we have seen a lot fewer frames from Federer than in years past.
This year, Federer already has 12 top ten wins, as opposed to just one at this time last season. Federer has won 18 of his last 20 matches, with his only two losses coming to Jo Wilfried Tsonga in the final at Toronto and Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.
In addition to his improved play and health, Federer also has the best draw he could have asked for. If his bracket is chalk all the way through, the only seeded players Federer would play in route to the finals are Karlovic, Fognini, Dimitrov, and Ferrer. Dimitrov is the only one of these four I can see having much a shot against Federer. Ferrer will put up a decent fight as always, but he is 0-16 against Federer for a reason.
Now lets take a look at Djokovic’s side of the draw. Unless Andy Murray continues to struggle with cramps, he appears to be on a collision course with Djokovic in the quarter final. If Murray doesn’t make it there, Tsonga almost assuredly will.
Lastly, defending champion Rafael Nadal had to withdraw from the U.S Open with a wrist injury. Nadal is 23-10 all time vs. Federer, and in each of Federer’s last three major titles, Nadal has either lost early, or not played at all.
This U.S Open seems like the perfect storm for Federer. He is playing as well as we have seen him since his 2012 Wimbledon Championship, his draw is very favorable, Djokovic and Murray have both struggled during the hard court season and Nadal, who has owned Federer as of late, will not be around to make life tough for Federer this time.
During Federer’s Wimbledon run last month, he told ESPN.com that he was playing a lot like he did in 2003, when he first won it. Now that he has come back to this style of more serving and volleying, Federer has proven that sometimes, you don’t have to teach an old dog new tricks.