NEW YORK: Roger Federer will try to reach his seventh consecutive US Open final and reclaim the crown he won five times in a row but Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have their eyes on the same prize.
The Flushing Meadows fortnight begins Monday with 16-time Grand Slam winner Federer seeking a 64th career title after his five-year US Open reign was ended last year by Juan Martin del Potro, who cannot defend his crown due to injury.
Wimbledon and French Open champion Nadal, who owns eight Slam titles, is the top seed followed by reigning Australian Open champion Federer, Serbian third seed Djokovic and British fourth seed Murray, seeking his first Slam title.
"I guess the top four have the best shot again," Federer said. "We can all play really well on the hardcourts. Murray has proven himself. So has Djokovic on the hardcourts and so has Rafa."
Nadal will try to become the seventh man to complete the career Grand Slam by capturing his first US Open title. He has stumbled in the semi-finals each of the past two years, by Murray in 2008 and Del Potro last year.
"Every year is different," Nadal said. "You can be playing very well, and you can arrive there and lose. You can be playing bad and start the tournament slow, better and better every day, and you can finish playing your best tennis and win. You never know."
Federer knows enough to know that he could see the Spaniard in the US Open final, the only Grand Slam singles championship match where they have not met.
"He has won the Australian Open. Maybe the US Open is a bit faster, so you figure Rafa will struggle a bit more," Federer said. "But if the draw goes his way, he’ll be in the final and have a crack at the title, too.
"He knows how to win Slams. He’s won all the other ones."
Nadal is 14-7 against Federer after winning six of their past seven meetings. They are 3-3 against each other on hardcourts.
"We get excited when we play each other, but I don’t think we miss each other when we don’t," Federer said.
"We’ve had that many matches against each other, and the matches are tough and grueling on both of us. There’s a huge hype around it, which is also a bit exhausting at times."
Murray, who was drawn into Nadal’s half of the bracket, proved he can handle anything either of the two top seeds can produce, becoming only the fifth man to beat Nadal and Federer in the same event to take the Toronto title.
"Winning a tournament is always great, but it’s the first time I beat Roger and Rafa in the same tournament, which is probably the most pleasing thing, and then didn’t drop a set against either of them," Murray said.
Murray had not won a title all year until his victory in the US Open tuneup event, serving notice that he has what it takes for a Grand Slam breakthrough in New York.
"Murray didn’t win a tournament for a long time, and he was able to win Toronto again, so that definitely puts him as one of the favorites as well," Federer said.
Federer could see Djokovic in the semi-finals for the second year in a row after struggling past the Serb 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, 7-5 last year. Federer is 10-5 lifetime against Djokovic.
Djokovic could spoil Federer’s title bid and Nadal’s career Slam hopes as well. While the Spaniard owns a 14-7 career edge over Djokovic, the Serb has won their past three meetings, all last year on hardcourts.