Big 3's Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic not only have more career Grand Slam titles than any other men in tennis history, but they’ve also completely dominated the majors over the last few years, winning the last 11 in a row since the start of the 2017 season.
And they’re all feeling, cautiously, optimistic about making that 12 in a row at this year’s US Open.
Federer hoping for rebound from early exit in Cincinnati
“It hasn’t always been easy here,” Federer, a five-time champion at the US Open, said at his pre-tournament press conference. “Two years ago I came in with a back issue a little bit, I had a struggle early on with five-setters. I remember Tiafoe and others. That set the tone the tournament was going to be tough. Last year I struggled with the heat against Millman. Obviously in ’16, I missed it entirely.
“But this is probably the best I’ve felt in years coming into the US Open again, which is encouraging.”
In his only lead-up tournament, Federer fell to Andrey Rublev in the third round of Cincinnati.
“It might be a good thing that I lost early, who knows,” he said. “It’s maybe one of those things that sometimes needs to happen, like when I won at the Australian Open in ’17, went to Dubai, lost early, then won Indian Wells and Miami. Maybe the same thing - played a great Wimbledon, needed to get knocked down in Cincy, get my act together, train hard. That’s what I did. I’m ready for the US Open.”
Nadal bringing winning feeling from Canada
The Spaniard had the best lead-up results of the Big 3, winning the only tournament he played at the Masters 1000 event in Canada. He crushed red-hot Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final, 6-3, 6-0.
“I can’t predict the future, but of course, arriving at the big events with good feelings helps,” the three-time US Open champion said. “My last events have been winning Rome, winning Roland Garros, semifinals in Wimbledon and winning Montreal. That’s a positive feeling, a positive memory in my mind. That definitely helps for the confidence, and it helps for the positive feelings on the court.
“For the moment I’m feeling well. I think I’ve been practicing well the whole week. Now just a couple of days remain to push it a little bit more and try to start the tournament in a good way.”
Djokovic, who has won four of the last five Grand Slams—including last year’s US Open—reached the semifinals of his only lead-up event in Cincinnati two weeks ago, falling to Medvedev in three sets.
Djokovic ready to embrace the night in New York
Like Nadal, Djokovic is a three-time champion in Flushing Meadows.
“I’ve been blessed to play well on these courts at the US Open, especially on Arthur Ashe,” he said. I have not lost too many matches in my career playing the night session, and a lot of matches that I get to play in Arthur Ashe are night sessions. So I really do enjoy that loud atmosphere that happens in there, which is quite the opposite of, for example, Wimbledon, except the last finals match.
“And I think you adjust to it. You adapt to it. You accept it. You embrace it. I do embrace it because I think it’s good for our sport to have various different atmospheres on the center courts of four different Slams that are very unique and obviously the biggest tournaments in our sport.”
Djokovic and Federer, who are on the same half of the draw, will play their first round matches on Monday - Djokovic in the day and Federer at night. Nadal opens his campaign on Tuesday night.
Wake up every morning with Tennis Channel Live at the US Open, starting at 8 a.m. ET. For three hours leading up to the start of play, Tennis Channel's team will break down upcoming matches, review tournament storylines and focus on everything Flushing Meadows.
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