At the beginning of the year, Novak Djokovic was on the verge of making tennis history, much of it at the expense of supposedly declining Roger Federer.
Instead, Rod Laver lives on as the last male to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time. And Federer has a chance to cap yet another extraordinary season, one in which his near walkover loss to Andy Murray in the gold-medal match at the Olympics will go down as only a tiny blemish.
Should Federer and Serena Williams both successfully follow their Wimbledon titles by winning at the U.S. Open, it will be the first time that both tournaments had the same champions since Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf in 1995. Federer last won both tournaments in the same year in 2007, proof of just how long he has maintained his place among the sport's elite.
That form shows no sign of waning. With his dominant 6-0, 7-6 (7) victory over Djokovic on Sunday to claim a record fifth title in Cincinnati, Federer ensured he will be the favorite in New York for more reasons than simply the absence of injured Rafael Nadal. It was the first time in 28 matches between Federer and Djokovic that either one had won a set 6-0.
With all due respect to the Olympics, Federer also prevailed over Murray in four sets in the bigger of the tournaments at the All England Club this summer. The 31-year-old from Switzerland has a chance to make it three consecutive years that the same player has won the year's final two slams, following Djokovic and Nadal in succession.
Djokovic's poor showing in Ohio -- following a title in Toronto -- can easily be discounted; he retired in last year's final because of injury only to rebound by winning the U.S. Open. Murray had to withdraw in Toronto after managing just two sets following a gold-medal victory that came in stunning fashion in front of his home fans.
On the women's side, a perceived lack of respect propelled Williams to claim the title at Wimbledon and the Olympics. To help Federer match Sampras and Graf, she may have to find someone to slight her again.
- Craig Stouffer