Print and Go Back ESPNTennis [Print without images]

Monday, August 16, 2010
Is Roger Federer the people's choice?

Editor's note: Beginning Aug. 16, Ravi Ubha unveils the top 10 U.S. Open questions. Check back each weekday until Aug. 27 as we count down to No. 1.

10. Will the New York fans back Federer?

Two years ago, Roger Federer showed up at the U.S. Open in, for him, dire straits. He had no silverware and was staring at a season without a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002.

Federer was coming off a humiliating loss to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final, during which the Swiss won just four games. Rafa then backed it up by edging Federer in the Wimbledon final in probably the greatest tennis match of all time. That one really hurt.

Intensifying the malaise, Federer didn't immediately prosper during the U.S. Open Series, failing to advance past the third round at the Masters stops in Canada and Cincinnati. Out went his 4½-year grip on the No. 1 ranking.

Then, at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, as he chased the singles gold medal he so desperately desired, Federer fell in the quarterfinals to James Blake, previously 0-8 versus the Fed. He didn't even earn a bronze.

You get the point.

Federer needed a pick-me-up, and the fans in New York obliged. Federer, as he pointed out, was stopped by a plethora of New Yorkers, including those perennially rushed cabbies, who infused their best wishes. Further, he received the biggest ovation at a parade of champions on opening night.

Federer went on to down Andy Murray, landing a 13th major and becoming the first man in 84 years to claim five consecutive U.S. Open crowns.

"The fans, for me, really turned it around," he reflected a year later.

Federer figures to get similar backing on his 11th visit, even though he already bagged a 16th major early this year at the Australian Open. But he hasn't won any titles since Melbourne, his semifinal streak at Grand Slams is over and, for a spell, his seven-year stint inside the top two ended. Regaining the No. 1 spot seems unlikely. Murray overcame Federer in Sunday's Rogers Cup finale in Toronto, extending the title drought.

The cabbies won't need reminding.