USOpen.org revisits five more-than-memorable moments from Roger Federer’s storied history on the courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, some that ended in triumph, and one that got away.
1. BREAKTHORUGH IN THE BOROUGH: Fed Fanatics sometimes forget that it took a few years for the 17-time Slam singles titlist to find his sea legs in Flushing Meadows. He actually failed to advance beyond the fourth round in each of his first four US Open appearances. But all that would change in 2004. Federer won three of four majors that year, including the US Open. Two matches after outlasting Andre Agassi in a thrilling five-set quarterfinal, Federer demolished 2001 US Open champ Lleyton Hewitt in a one-sided winner-take-all showdown, hanging two bagels on the fiery Aussie in a 6-0, 7-6, 6-0 triumph. “My first US Open — it means very much to me,” said Federer. “It seems like if you can handle New York, kind of you can handle anything. It's too much for me to understand right now what I have achieved.” It was the first of five straight titles in New York, where Federer has become a fan favorite.
2. A DOMINANCE ONLY TIGER COULD UNDERSTAND: Three years after he became the first American man not named Sampras, Agassi, Courier or Chang to win a Slam in nearly two decades, Andy Roddick found himself back in the US Open final, this time against the Basel-born Federer, a man whom he would have the unfortunate pleasure of facing in the finals of four majors. Although A-Rod fought admirably in the second and third sets, with his pal Tiger Woods looking on, Federer neutralized his foe’s best-in-the-business serve to claim the 2006 title 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. “He knew exactly how I kind of felt out on the court," said Federer of Woods, who was rooting for the Swiss. “That's something that I haven't felt before — a guy who knows how it feels to feel invincible at times and when you just have the feeling like there's nothing going wrong anymore.”
3. A COMEBACK FOR THE AGES: He had rallied from two-sets-to-love deficits on eight previous occasions, but the Swiss had never done it when facing two match points at a major. So you’ll have to forgive the usually-cool-as-a-cucumber 33-year-old tour veteran for wearing his heart on his sleeve after erasing not one but two match points against Frenchman Gael Monfils in this year’s quarterfinals, winning 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in front of a entranced Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd. “I must say tonight was actually quite emotional for me,” said Federer, who returned to the U.S. Open semis for the first time in three years. “I have won other big ones in other places, but over best-of-five, saving match points against Gael in that atmosphere — it's definitely very special.”
4. DRIVE FOR FIVE: Talk about dominant. Fed took out both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in claiming his fifth consecutive US Open title, joining Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors as the only five-time winners in the Open era. He also became the first player ever to win two different Grand Slams five years in a row, having also owned the lawns of Wimbledon between 2003 and 2007. “It's nice to compare five Wimbledons to five US Opens, no doubt. Not many guys — nobody can do that, you know. I'm quite proud, obviously, of my achievement.”
5. THE RETURN HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD: It was tennis’ equivalent of Bobby Thomson’s iconic "shot heard ‘round the world." Up 5-3 in the fifth set of his 2011 semifinal against rival Novak Djokovic and serving for the match at 40-15, the Swiss star saw his lead vanish in a matter of seconds. Facing two match points, Djokovic took a gamble and absolutely hammered a forehand return. It was a clean winner and as gutsy a shot as you’ll see in tennis. Djokovic raised his arms to the crowd and was rewarded with some much-deserved love. It was an unmistakable turning point. With another match point on his racquet, Federer swatted a forehand that caught the net cord and floated wide. Having surrendered his match points, he eventually double-faulted the break away. The Serb seized the moment and turned the match around for good. Federer seemed almost offended that his opponent would take such a low-percentage risk on the return winner. Asked if it was a matter of luck or confidence, Federer glared, “Confidence? Are you kidding me? I mean, please. Look, some players grow up and play like that. I never played that way. I believe in the hard-work’s-going-to-pay-off kind of thing. For me, this is very hard to understand how can you play a shot like that on match point.” It was the second straight year Djokovic had defeated Federer in a US Open semi after saving two match points.