When Roger Federer lost in the fourth round of last year’s US Open to Tommy Robredo, an opponent he had beaten in all 10 of their previous meetings, you would have got decent odds on the Swiss never adding to his collection of 17 Grand Slam titles. Earlier in the summer he had suffered his earliest exit at Wimbledon for 11 years, losing to the world No 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky and in the previous 13 months the only title he had won was at a minor event in Halle.
What a difference a year makes. As Federer prepares for this season’s US Open, which begins in five days’ time, the 33-year-old is in such fine form that he is the bookmakers’ second favourite behind Novak Djokovic. Federer has been the outstanding player in this summer’s two Masters Series tournaments, reaching the final in Toronto and winning the title in Cincinnati for the sixth time.
After a 2013 season in which he was always struggling because of back problems, Federer has been resurgent in 2014. Runner-up at Wimbledon and a semi-finalist at the Australian Open, he has won the Dubai, Halle and Cincinnati titles, reached the finals of three other Masters Series events and guided Switzerland to the Davis Cup semi-finals.
Last year Federer did not secure his place in the elite eight-man field for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals until the last event of the regular season. This time he has already earned enough ranking points to secure his spot in the competition for the 13th year in a row.
The hard work Federer put in to regain his fitness has been crucial, but he also gives credit to Stefan Edberg, who joined his coaching entourage at the end of last year. The appointment is now reaping its reward, though Federer said he had struggled initially with the idea of working with a former player who was once his idol.
“It wasn’t something I ever thought was going to happen, so I’m happy that the transition is in the past now,” Federer said. “We like each other’s company. We don’t get bored with each other. We enjoy talking about tennis, but then we don’t talk tennis all the time. It’s really comfortable. So from that standpoint he’s been a big help.
“The hard work has been put in before he came on to the team clearly, especially last year. I worked so hard to get back into shape. I’m happy he’s been helpful in the process to get me back into winning ways.”
Federer’s durability in such a physically demanding sport is remarkable, though he initially thought of pulling out of last week’s Cincinnati tournament after his exertions in Toronto the previous week. “I need to be smart about how much I play, when I play, and how I feel,” he said.
With Rafael Nadal absent through injury, Djokovic struggling to find his form and Andy Murray without a title for 13 months, Federer could have an outstanding chance to add to his Grand Slam collection in New York, where he has been champion five times.
Federer said his form would send him into the US Open full of confidence. He said: “I know my game is where I want it to be. It’s about just keeping that level up right now.”