Federer, Nadal at US Open crossroads

Season’s last Grand Slam to swing into action from August 31

Afp August 27, 2015
There is still much to fear from Federer, but Nadal’s downward spiral in form has lessened the Spaniard’s threat. PHOTOS: FILE

NEW YORK: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with 31 major titles between them, head for the US Open with their Grand Slam careers at the crossroads.

Despite turning 34, Federer was an impressive winner of a seventh Cincinnati Masters title last weekend, seeing off world number one — and US Open favourite — Novak Djokovic in the final.

But Federer has stumbled badly in New York in recent years.

A five-time champion from 2004-2008, he was runner-up to Juan Martin del Potro in 2009 but hasn’t been back to the final since.

His record at the Grand Slams in 2015 has also been mixed.

The seven-time Wimbledon champion may have at least reached the final at the All England Club, but that run was preceded by a shock third-round exit to Italian journeyman Andreas Seppi at the Australian Open, his earliest in Melbourne in 14 years.

He then endured a quarter-final loss at Roland Garros to compatriot Stan Wawrinka.

Federer’s last Grand Slam title came at Wimbledon in 2012 and if he wins the US Open this year, he would be the oldest champion since 35-year-old Ken Rosewall back in 1970.

“I haven’t been in a final [in New York] since 2009. So I have my work cut out,” said Federer, who was beaten by eventual champion Marin Cilic in the semi-finals last year.

Rafael Nadal’s stardom on the wane

In contrast to the Swiss player’s staying power is Nadal’s swift, brutal decline.

The 29-year-old Spaniard, the 2010 and 2013 champion in New York, has endured a tough year, the knee joints and wrists looking stiffer and weaker.

After being deposed as French Open champion — his quarter-final loss to Djokovic was only his second ever defeat in Paris — Nadal slumped to 10 in the world, his lowest ranking for a decade.

He has recovered to eight, but he is no longer the player that once struck terror into rivals.

At Wimbledon, he was knocked out in the second round by Germany’s Dustin Brown while his North American hardcourt season ended in a quarter-final loss to Kei Nishikori in Montreal and a third-round exit against Feliciano Lopez in Cincinnati.

“I am having a tough year, yes. Not a terrible year,” said Nadal. “I cannot make a drama about these kinds of things. This is not the moment to cry.”

Djokovic, the 2011 US Open champion, already has the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles under his belt in 2015, taking his majors total to nine.

The 28-year-old boasts a 56-5 record this year but two of those defeats have come this month — to Andy Murray in the Montreal Masters final and then against Federer in Cincinnati.

Murray, the world number three, won in New York in 2012, ending Britain’s 76-year wait for a Grand Slam men’s singles champion. He has made at least the quarter-finals in New York in the last four years.

Outside of the ‘Big Four’, Stan Wawrinka, the French Open champion, has made the semi-finals in New York on just one occasion in 10 visits.

Defending champion Cilic faces the task of proving he’s not a one Slam wonder, while world number four Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam final in New York last year. 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th,  2015.

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