(Reuters) – Roger Federer is feeling the magic once again and that can only spell trouble for his opponents in the U.S. Open.
The glitzy yet gritty final grand slam of the year begins on Monday and Federer, five-times champion, is anxious to reclaim the title he last won in 2008.
A year ago, the Swiss virtuoso reached the semi-finals but lost a five-set thriller to Novak Djokovic, who went on to win the championship over Rafa Nadal.
“I felt good last year, but probably felt that maybe at times the matches were not always in my racquet, whereas maybe this time around I feel like if I’m playing well I can dictate who’s going to win or lose,” said Federer.
“It’s going to take something special from my opponent to win. That’s kind of how it feels right now.”
The 31-year-old Federer won a seventh Wimbledon crown – his 17th grand slam title – this year and regained his spot as the best player on the planet. He is the top seed at Flushing Meadows and if the seeding holds form will play Olympic champion Andy Murray in the semi-finals after Murray beat the Swiss in straight sets to win the gold medal.
With an injury sidelining Nadal, Djokovic avoids Federer or Murray until a possible showdown in the final. But the Serb denied he had a dream path through the tournament.
“I don’t think there is a perfect draw, to be honest with you,” he told reporters. “The draw is something that you cannot affect. It’s a question of luck, obviously.
“There are 128 players here who have plenty of motivation to perform their best in the grand glam, the last major of the year, so I’m sure that they want to cause some upsets in the opening round.
“I’m just trying to focus on my game, which is the most important thing.”
Murray, who lost to Federer in four sets in this year’s Wimbledon final but gained his revenge at the London Games, comes into the two-week U.S. Open with some much-needed momentum.
“Obviously winning the Olympics was the biggest win of my career, that’s for sure,” said the Scotsman, who is still searching for his first grand slam title.
“It meant a lot to me. The Wimbledon final, I mean, that’s the first time I have been there. I was happy with the way I played.
“It was obviously disappointing, a tough one to take for a few days afterwards, but I don’t know. I feel confident in myself just now. That’s what’s important.”
Though he is playing well, Federer declined to predict a championship at Flushing Meadows, saying there is always the possibility of a first-round shocker.
“You have to always be very careful how you say it and how you then play,” he said. “I will take it one match at a time. There’s no doubt about that. I will never ever underestimate an opponent ever again. I did that enough when I was a teenager.
“I already reached my goal for the year becoming world number one and getting Wimbledon again and getting a medal for Switzerland. It’s been incredible.
“But I do have this one left for me this year where I really, really want to do well, and I couldn’t be more happy returning here as number one. It’s super exciting.”
(Editing by Tim Hart and Mike Collett)