It’s been nine years since Roger Federer won the last of five straight US Open crowns.
With two majors under his belt this season, could the Swiss star, who has been recently been hindered by a back problem, do it again in New York?
Chris Evert, an 18-time grand slam champion, doesn’t think so.
“I would be very surprised if Roger Federer would win the US Open,” Evert told CNN.
“He’s very capable, we know that, but he’s a shotmaker and I think at the US Open you are going to contend with a lot more than being a shotmaker.”
The sweltering conditions in New York this time of the year may be too much for the Swiss, who turned 36 earlier this month.
He last played the US Open in 2015, where he lost in the finals to former top-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
Federer missed the event last year because he was taking six months off to let his knee heal from surgery earlier that season. He rebounded from the longest injury break in his career by winning the Australian Open at the start of the season and Wimbledon in July.
“Now we’re going to the hot part of the season, the hot part of the year,” said Evert, who won the US Open six times between 1975 and 1982 and retired in 1989 at the age of 35.
“Does he have anything left in the tank?” questioned Evert in interview last month.
“Those long five-set matches, can he play five-set matches, two, three, four in a row? It’s a completely different landscape and I just think that someone like Rafa Nadal is licking his chops right now, wanting to get that second grand slam in.”
After losing in the finals of the Australian Open to Federer, Nadal clinched a record tenth French Open title at Roland Garros in Paris in June.
The Spaniard regained the top spot in men’s tennis this week and will be the top seed at Flushing Meadows, where he won the title in 2010 and 2013.
The third-ranked Federer played only one event before the US Open, the year’s final major which he won five years in a row between 2004 and 2008.
He reached the finals of the Montreal Masters on August 13, where he lost to young rising German star Alexander Zverev in straight sets.
After that defeat, Federer withdrew from the Western & Southern Open tournament in Cincinnati, saying in a statement he had “tweaked” his back in Canada and needed to rest.
With defending champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland and Djokovic both out with injuries, the Swiss is the 5-4 favorite to win the US Open at UK bookmaker William Hill.
That means a successful $4 wager would yield $5 plus the original stake. Nadal is second at 9-4, followed by former winner Andy Murray of Britain at 5-1 and Zverev at 8-1.
Shortly after beating Croatia’s Marin Cilic at the All England Club in July to clinch his first Wimbledon title in five years, 19-time major winner Federer told CNN winning a third grand slam title this season would be “a joke.”
“I know if I stay in shape there are chances for me to do well at the US Open, but to win it? Yeah, at some stage I almost feel like I have to be realistic,” said Federer.
“I am not 25 anymore. I’m not sure I can win three slams in one year. Winning two is already pretty crazy and plenty good enough for me,” he said.
Evert, who won her last slam at the age of 31 and is now working as a broadcaster for ESPN while she also runs her own tennis academy in Florida, is impressed with Federer’s stellar season.
“How is it possible? Because Roger Federer is the type of player that, he lets losses roll off his back,” Evert said.
“He has enough emotional energy left because of the way he views tennis, he has four kids and a wife, so he has another life to get him away from the pressures of tennis.
“He is a shotmaker, he is not a grinder, he doesn’t need to practice five, six hours a day running down balls like say a Nadal.”