Roger Federer is a man who has nothing to prove, his 17 Grand Slam titles ensure that. However, like any top sportsman, the Swiss star is keen to continue impressing and because of that, he fears an early exit on the American hard courts.
The 33-year-old needn't fear any shocks at Cincinnati or the US Open based on his current form, however. At Toronto's Rogers Cup, only a resurgent Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stood on his path in the Canadian final.
His return to action in North America followed a narrow defeat in the final of Wimbledon to new world no.1 Novak Djokovic.
A highly successful summer marks a stark contrast from 2013. Doubters thought Federer's time on-court may have been up with a string of disappointing displays, but the former world no.1 has reached seven finals this year.
The defeat to Tsonga was, however, his fifth defeat in finals this year and Federer knows he has to get past the final hurdle somehow.
Before that stage, though, the world no.3 must continue his concentration to challenge for the top honours and he remains fearful of the early rounds, especially after Tsonga lost in round one of the Cincinnati Masters just a few days after beating Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov in Toronto.
“That's not very good for me, either, when I see that happening,” Federer said of Tsonga's straight sets loss to Mikhail Youzhny.
“From that standpoint, the fear is always there from the first rounds regardless of how you approach a tournament. But a lot of things have happened in the last year for me, and I'm happy that most of it has been really positive for me.”
By this point in 2013, expectations had plummeted for the five-time US Open winner and sure enough he failed in the warm-up events and indeed Flushing Meadows.
He admits that success isn't as easy to come by nowadays, though now his confidence is up again.
“When I came here, expectations were very, very low,” Federer told reporters. “I was just hoping to win a match. And this year, it's pretty much the same, other than I feel so much better, so much more confident.”
After going so close at Wimbledon, it would be fitting to see Federer take Grand Slam no.18 in New York. He won five in a row between 2004 and 2008 but his record has got progressively worse in the US since that time.
It certainly won't be simple for him to roll back the years with so many top players gracing the courts at the moment, but one positive is the potential non-participation of defending champion Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard is yet to overcome injury and has sat out the warm-up events thus far and hasn't committed to the tournament which starts in a fortnight.
It could be a good sign for Federer for the present and future. Of course, with the world no.2 missing or under-strength it removes one potential obstacle at Flushing Meadows, furthermore Nadal is the only man in sight of Federer's all-time Grand Slam haul. The 28-year-old sits just three wins away from the Swiss star.
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