NEW YORK , September 12 – Roger Federer hopes to ride a wave of emotion as he targets a sixth US Open title and 18th major Sunday in a “straight shootout” against world number one Novak Djokovic.
Federer, 34, is bidding to become the oldest champion in New York since 35-year-old Australian Ken Rosewall in 1970.
Playing in his 27th Grand Slam final and seventh at the US Open, Federer, the champion from 2004-2008 and runner-up in 2009, is a man reborn.
After losing his second Wimbledon final in succession to Djokovic in July, the Swiss veteran beat the Serb on his way to a seventh Cincinnati Masters crown.
He has also not dropped a set since his All England Club defeat, a stretch of 28 sets.
At the US Open, he has held serve in 80 of 82 games and has stunned opponents with his new ‘SABR’ (‘Sneak Attack By Roger’) chip-and-charge tactic.
His semi-final demolition of French Open champion and compatriot Stan Wawrinka was as brutal as Djokovic’s dismantling of defending champion Marin Cilic.
The top seed allowed the Croatian just three games in the most lopsided semi-final in tournament history.
Federer also has the crowd on his side as he pursues his first Grand Slam title since Wimbledon in 2012.
“I definitely think if there would be more on my side that will give me a lift and extra energy and momentum possibly. That could swing the match a little bit,” said Federer, aware that despite his status as world number one, Djokovic often struggles to command a crowd’s respect.
“But other than that, obviously Novak is a great player. Both of us have played in all tough conditions, and you’ve got to play well to beat him. There is no question about that.”
There could be spiky sub-plots.
Djokovic has been almost dismissive of Federer’s new chip-and-charge off a second serve.
“I haven’t considered doing that. It’s an exciting shot for him. For the player opposite side of the net, not so much. So I have nothing else to say about that,” said the Serb on Friday.
Federer takes a 21-20 lead over Djokovic into Sunday’s final.
He also leads 3-2 in US Open meetings — including the 2007 championship match — but Djokovic won the last two, in the 2010 and 2011 semi-finals.
Both those went to five sets.
Federer says he knows what to expect from Djokovic, claiming that Rafael Nadal was the player who tested him the most.
“With Novak it’s been more straightforward. That’s what I like about the rivalry. I feel like he doesn’t need to adjust his game as much,” said the Swiss.
“I think it’s just a straight shootout, and I think that’s the cool thing about our rivalry.
“It’s very athletic. We both can handle each other — whatever we present to one another, and I think our matches, it’s very even.”
Djokovic will be playing in his sixth US Open final, having been champion in 2011 and his 18th in all Grand Slams.
Sunday’s meeting will be the pair’s sixth of 2015, all in finals.
Had it not been for Wawrinka playing the match of his life in June to defeat Djokovic and claim the French Open title, the Serb could have been pondering history on Sunday with a calendar Grand Slam.
“We we all know how consistent Roger is and how good he is in the latter stages of a Grand Slams and any other big tournament,” said Djokovic, a nine-time major winner.
“He’s always going to perform on a high level. Rarely he drops his level. He always makes you play your best.
“I know that he’s also lately being very aggressive coming to the net, mixing up, and trying to shorten out the points. I think also he improved his speed.
“His defensive game is better than it was. Maybe healthier.”
Wawrinka, having lost for the 17th time against his compatriot, believes Federer is playing some of his best tennis.
“If he keeps this level, he’s going to be tough to beat,” said Wawrinka.