For the first time since 2015, five-time US Open men’s singles champion Roger Federer enters the US Open with a clean bill of health. After sitting out the 2016 event with a knee injury, Federer willed his way to last year’s quarterfinals despite a back injury that hampered his preparation and play.
This year, he has long had the year’s final Slam circled on his calendar.
“It’s even bigger of a priority this year – not that it wasn’t last year,” Federer said at Friday’s US Open Media Day, sporting a casual Uniqlo button-down shirt. “I'm really excited and happy to be back here healthy again and feeling good and, you know, take it one match at a time and see what happens.”
His health was not the only reason Federer was smiling as he addressed the media in the newly opened Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“I like playing here. I think the court speed’s good for me. I’m happy in this country. I’m happy in New York,” he said.
The Swiss reached the final at the Cincinnati Masters last week, his only hard-court event of the summer, but he much prefers the conditions at the US Open.
“I think coming to New York, I think you get a better feel [compared to Cincinnati]. The balls are easier to control. The surface is a touch slower. So I think as an overall theme, maybe we will see better tennis here in New York.”
Since he won the last of his five consecutive US Open titles in 2008, Federer has won Wimbledon and the Australian Open three times each and the French Open once. He has reached two finals and three semifinals in the last nine years here, at what he termed the “cooler” of the Grand Slams.
Seeded No. 2 at this year's event, the 20-time Grand Slam champion could face a Cincinnati final rematch against Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, and with the top-seeded Rafael Nadal in the opposite half of the draw, the 2018 US Open final could double as the first New York encounter between the two.
Though Federer said earlier in the week that he is "not the favorite" at this year's tournament, his words on Media Day indicate a quiet confidence, the sort of understated swagger that has colored every turn of his historic career.