Roger Federer may have booked his place in the third round of the US Open on Wednesday but there is cause for concern among the Swiss legend's loyal legion of fans.
After dropping the first set of his first round tie against Sumit Nagal, he continued that worrying trend against Damir Dzumhur. The 38-year-old was slow coming out of the blocks before prevailing in four - 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
It is, of course, important not to forget that Federer decided to recharge his batteries following his agonising defeat to Novak Djokovic in last month’s Wimbledon.
The 20-time grand slam winner went on a caravan holiday with his family in an attempt to get over squandering two match points at SW19.
Subsequently, he played just two matches at the recent Cincinnati Masters before falling to Andrey Rublev.
There have been suggestions that a Wimbledon hangover could be contributing to his less than convincing victories at Flushing Meadows. But it shouldn’t be forgotten that he has now reached the third round of the season’s final grand slam for the 19th time in his career.
Federer also racked up his 100th win in New York, meaning he has achieved that remarkable feat across three of the four majors.
The world No. 3 will have some time to regroup before he faces the winner of Dan Evans and Lucas Pouille, with that clash delayed due to adverse weather in the Big Apple. It would be fair to assume a fresher Federer will be able to iron out some of the flaws in his game.
Although it is dangerous to look too far ahead in the draw, the five-time champion could meet Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals and then Djokovic in the last four.
Djokovic and Federer have one of the most storied rivalries in the sport and the latter would have to be at his imperious best to halt the Serb's charge to the title.
Despite making progress in New York, Federer has bemoaned his sluggish starts to matches.
"I got exactly what I expected from both guys,” he admitted. “I knew what Nagal was going to give me.
"I knew what Dzumhur was going to give me. But I didn't expect to hit 15 to 20 unforced errors, which is basically in the entire set just sort of donated.
“They came out and were well-prepared and got me to do that. But I clearly have to play better from the get-go.”
Meanwhile, the all-time slam race is hotting up. Djokovic has 16 majors to his name while Nadal is on 18, two shy of Federer's record. It is quite conceivable that both could finish ahead of the aging icon.
Former US Open finalist Greg Rusedski has ruled out Federer adding to his tally before he retires, as he said on Amazon Prime: "I’d pick Federer as third.
“I think it’s going to be 23 for Novak, 21 for Rafa and 20 for Federer.
“I think he’ll get to finals and he’s still got a chance to win Wimbledon if something works for him but that’s what I see happening right now.”
The fact that Federer continues to get to finals almost defies belief. The chasing pack which consists of the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev have yet to break up the dominance of the 'Fab Three', but as far as the US Open is concerned, Federer needs to sort himself out and fast.
To live up to the extraordinarily high standards he sets himself, Federer needs to come out of the blocks quicker or else he will come unstuck sooner rather than later.
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