Federer chases history again

Swiss master gunning for sixth straight title

All Eyes On Gold: Andy Roddick, Serena Williams and Roger Federer look on as Maria Sharapova has a go at the ball before the start of the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York. Reuters

Federer is one step away from matching the feat accomplished by Bill Tilden, who won six US National titles in a row from 1920 before the championships were open to professionals.

"The fans really turned it around for me, and that's why this year I'm so excited coming back here," Federer, 28, said. "I hope I can again show them what I can do on a tennis court."

Federer came to New York at a low point last year, losing a spectacular Wimbledon final to Rafael Nadal, losing his number one ranking to the Spaniard and then losing in his bid for Olympic singles gold in Beijing.

The Swiss rode a rousing wave of fan support to clinch his fifth Open at Flushing Meadows, however, and this year won his first French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.

He then went on to reclaim the Wimbledon title in July for a record 15th Grand Slam crown to surpass American great Pete Sampras. "They were great," Federer said of his New York reception. "Like all the cab drivers and everybody was stopping to wish me luck.

"It was something that I've never really experienced before in New York. I think that really helped turn it around for me." Federer's primary challengers have their own cause for optimism at the Open. World number two Andy Murray of Britain, runner-up to Federer last year after advancing to his first Grand Slam final, believes he is ready to take the next step.

Australian Open winner Nadal, working his way back to form, needs an Open title to complete his career slam.  Last year, he advanced to the semifinals, where he lost to Murray. Encouraged by his recovery from injury, the Spaniard told reporters he had a chance to win in Flushing Meadows, drawing admiration from Murray.

Andy Roddick, whose 27 singles titles include the 2003 US Open championship, has adopted a new fitness regime working with Larry Stefanki, his fourth coach since 2003.
Serbian world number four Novak Djokovic also looms as a major threat on the hardcourts and has struck a rich vein of form in recent weeks.

Serena favourite
Serena Williams is baffled that she is not world number one, and a third Grand Slam success of the year at the Open will underline her claim to be the top women's player.
Holder Williams is the world number two and second seed at Flushing Meadows behind Russian Dinara Safina, but is aching to once again assert herself in the spotlight of Arthur Ashe Stadium court. Flushing Meadows rivals also include her sister and seven times major winner Venus, the third seed, Olympic champion Elena Dementieva, 2008 runner-up Jelena Jankovic of Serbia and former winners Maria Sharapova and Kim Clijsters. Safina does not apologise for her status, achieved through consistent excellence through the rigours of a long season. "I didn't do the ranking system," said Safina.

Yet Jankovic, who also reached number one last year despite lacking a slam win, cited another Safina shortcoming.  "To be number one, you should be complete and if you are number one you have to be beating the Williams sisters." Safina is a combined 2-9 against the Williams duo. Young players that could be poised to advance deep into the tournament include Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, Sabine Lisicki of Germany and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.

Somdev’s test
Indian Somdev Devvarman, who came through the qualifying rounds, will play 110th-ranked Frederico Gil of Portugal in the first round. The 24-year-old Somdev became the first Indian to qualify for the US Open since Los Angeles-born Indian Prakash Amritraj played in 2002.

Somdev has never met Gil before. If the Indian clears the first round, he might face world number 23 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, who faces Andreas Seppi of Italy in the opener.  Sania Mirza is the only other Indian player in the singles and she plays Olga Govortsova of Belarus in the first round.

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