At 38 years old, Roger Federer defies logic while he remains one of the greatest tennis players in the world. For all his late-career success, however, he’s struggled to win at the U.S. Open. He hasn’t won one since 2008.
Despite this, Federer has to be considered one of the favorites to win any Grand Slam event he enters. Here are three things he needs to win at this year’s U.S. Open.
A few upsets
Men’s tennis has been dominated by three names over the last decade: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. Either Djokovic or Nadal losing in an earlier round would greatly help Federer take home the Grand Slam.
Nadal is the second-ranked player in the world. Federer is third. Over the course of both men’s careers, Nadal leads the head-to-head matchups with a record of 24-16. They’ve played at the last two Grand Slam events. Federer won at Wimbledon while Nadal won at Roland Garros for the French Open.
It’s a tough proposition for Federer: while he has slightly more success against Djokovic, Djokovic is currently the number one player in the world. Facing either one would be sure to be a tough day at the office for Federer.
Clearly, Roger Federer is capable of beating both men. But his road to victory will be a lot easier without either of those two on it. An upset loss for Nadal and/or Djokovic isn’t necessary for a Federer win. But it would create ideal circumstances for him.
To get better at converting break points
After such a long and storied career, Roger Federer seems to have almost no weaknesses in his game. And while it’s true that for the most part there are no glaring holes to be exploited, there is one area he could improve. It’s an area he’s struggled with throughout his career, but even more so in 2019: converting break points.
Roger Federer’s career break point conversion rate is 41.13%. This ranks him 91 among active players. It’s been particularly bad this season:
“In 2019, Federer has struggled on break points even more than in past years. Coming into Miami with a solid 12-2 record, he has converted only 34.9 per cent (37/106) of break points this season, positioning him at 68th best on the ATP Tour. It’s a stat that simply doesn’t mesh with his overall body of work.”
Federer’s game doesn’t have much wrong with it, but this is one component he’ll need to improve if he wants to win.
Constant vigilance, no matter the opponent
In the first round, Roger Federer faced off against Indian Sumit Nagal. Nagal was ranked 190 in the world and was playing in his first Grand Slam. Federer was expected to cruise to victory.
He did anything but.
Federer actually lost the first set 6-4 and needed two and a half hours to put the feisty Nagal away. After the match, Federer commented:
“I just tried to forget it, stay tough. It was a tough first set for me. Credit to him to play a solid first, and [I] was missing a lot of balls and hopefully serve better. It came back just in time.”
He’ll need to be on his toes against Damir Dzumhur. It’s unlikely Federer took Nagal lightly, but he can’t afford to let any other upstarts sneak up on him with surprises performances.
Ultimately, Roger Federer has as good a chance to win this U.S. Open as he’s had at any of the most recent Grand Slam events. He’ll just need to be sure he avoids the greats, watches his break point conversions, and doesn’t overlook any of his lower-ranked opponents.