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Everything in place for phenomenal Federer

By Simon Cambers
August 25, 2005 17:04 IST
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Roger Federer will go into the US Open next week as one of the biggest favourites in the event's 124-year history.

The Swiss has won his last 22 finals, has taken five Grand Slam titles and is full of confidence that he can become the first man since Australian Patrick Rafter, in 1998, to successfully defend the title at Flushing Meadows.

"I'm not over-confident, just very confident," Federer said, having returned from six weeks off the tour with victory in the Cincinnati Masters.

"I just know what I have to do. I know my game's in place now. Once I win a certain number of matches, I know what I can do, what I can't do.

"And so I play the percentages I think extremely well in finals, and on big points usually I'm, well, I've been unbeatable."

Almost unbeatable.

Only three men -- Russian Marat Safin, Frenchman Richard Gasquet and Spaniard Rafael Nadal -- have got the better of him this year. Gasquet beat him in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters, while the other two losses were in Grand Slam semi-finals.

Even though he stands at 64-3 on the season, those defeats still rankle.

"The one against Safin [at the Australian Open] sort of hurt, having match point," he said. "I think he got a little lucky winning that point.

"The Nadal match at the French Open, I was just disappointed in my performance because I think I had a big chance to beat him and I wasn't playing my best.

"But I'm happy with the way things went at the French Open. The Australian Open, I always know that I can win that tournament no matter what year I'm playing in."


Having beaten Australian Lleyton Hewitt 6-0, 7-6, 6-0 to win the title in New York last year, Federer knows he can do the same at the US Open this year, injuries and illness permitting.

Belgian Olivier Rochus suggested recently that the only chance anyone has against Federer comes in the first round, and the statistics back up his assessment.

The world number one has won his last 22 finals, including nine in 2005. He stormed to his third consecutive Wimbledon title in July and returned after a six-week break to win his fourth Masters Series title of the year in Cincinnati last weekend.

"I had losses in the early part of my career in finals," he said. "But I play my best in the finals, in the important matches.

"That's why I'm number one, you know. There's no secret."

Any thoughts that his six-week break would affect his performance were dismissed in Cincinnati.

"I feel very fresh mentally especially," he said. "I really feel like I have got the confidence back.

"I have got my footwork back. The eye is back, you know, watching the ball, following the ball, reading the game. So definitely I'm feeling really good right now heading into the US Open."


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Simon Cambers
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