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Federer must cut the mistakes in New York

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Originally published on: 30/08/11 12:12

Should Roger Federer fail to pick up his sixth US Open title at the end of the fortnight, it will be the first time since 2002 that the Swiss has ended a year without winning at least one of the four Grand Slams.

It’s a remarkable stat, yet it seems rather a long time since the 16-time Grand Slam champ bossed the tour to the point where some wondered why challengers even bothered to take to court against the masterful craftsman.

Now 30, the losses have become more frequent, the tournament victories few and far between – he’s won just one title this year – but Federer is still blessed with all the tools to win the major tournaments, and his body seems in good nick too.

“No niggling injuries, and everything is under control,” the Swiss stated ahead of this year’s tournament, and there’s been no crisis of confidence since he left his twenties behind him. “I’m still as professional. I’m still as hungry. Everything’s still completely normal. It’s just a number that’s changed, you know. I’m ready to go.”

Federer appeared exactly that for much of the opening set in his first round encounter at Flushing Meadows until, at 5-1 up, he squandered a double break to give Colombian opponent Santiago Giraldo a glimmer of hope, before rounding out a 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory to earn a second round berth against Israel’s Dudi Sela.

While Federer seems prone to the odd lapse in concentration these days, the five-time US Open champion believes that like Andre Agassi, who won Grand Slams well into his thirties, he can continue to win the biggest prizes, even in a sport that is becoming increasingly dominated by the super-fit.

“It’s definitely an inspiration seeing guys being around for a long time like Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, and then there are tons of other players who were there for a long time,” he said.

“I feel my game allows me to still play for many more years because I have a relaxing playing style. I have almost played a thousand matches on tour and that leaves its toll, but I’m very professional when it comes to massages, stretching, diet, sleep, all of that stuff.

“I have always looked in the long term. I have never been chasing stuff around since, you know, I turned No.1 seven years ago. That’s why I’m confident I can still play for many more years to come at the highest of levels.”

Federer’s first round victory saw him equal Agassi’s tally of 224 Grand Slam match wins in the Open Era, putting him second only to Jimmy Connors’ 233, but in his pursuit of keeping that number ticking skywards, the Swiss will have to adjust quickly to the slow pace of the courts at Flushing Meadows.

“It’s just unfortunate maybe that all the slams are too equal,” Federer lamented, having notched up 35 unforced errors in his opening match in his struggle to finish off points. “This should feel very different to the Australian Open and it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s really what tennis needs.”

The good of the game is one thing, but what Roger needs is slam No.17. And for that, first of all, the error count must come down.

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