By the summer of 2008, Roger Federer had summarily been written off by the tennis establishment. The 12-time Grand Slam champion had lost in the three previous Slams and as a result, entered the US Open as the number two player in the world. After an incredible four and a half year run atop the ATP world rankings, the Swiss legend had been dethroned by the king of clay and newly crowned Wimbledon champion, Rafael Nadal.
Unbeknownst to the global tennis community, Federer had been seriously ill with mononucleosis since losing in the semifinals at the 2008 Australian Open to eventual champion, Novak Djokovic. The Swiss number one had attributed his malaise to excessive traveling across countless time zones and had continued to play until he received an official diagnosis from his physician who instructed him to not compete and rest for six weeks.
Heading to the All England Club in June of 2008 as the defending champion, he was looking to accomplish a feat not even Bjorn Borg had achieved; six consecutive Wimbledon Championships. Touted by many as perhaps the greatest final in Wimbledon history, the Swiss maestro's reign on center court had ended; Nadal would claim his first Wimbledon title - 9-7 in the fifth - and in the process – undermined Federer's resolve and aura of invincibility.
By August of that year, he had been defeated twelve times; more losses than he had compiled in any season between 2004 and 2007. Undeniably, victory was that much sweeter on the hard courts of the US Open for he would avenge two significant losses from earlier in the season. In the semis he would defeat Novak Djokovic and in the final, the 21-year-old Scot, Andy Murray. Reaching his first Grand Slam final, Murray led their head to head 2-1 but Federer would not be denied.
In defeating Murray 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 for his fifth consecutive US Open and 13th Grand Slam championship, Roger Federer became the first man in tennis history to win five consecutive titles at the US Open and Wimbledon. He played brilliantly and aggressively, breaking Murray seven times while amassing 36 winners over the course of three sets. His forays to the net were equally successful earning him thirty-one of forty-four points.
The following year, he made the final at the Open for the sixth consecutive time. Unfortunately, he lost the lead he had amassed and fell in five sets to the hard-hitting Argentine, Juan Martin Del Potro. The Swiss number one has not made the final since losing to Del Potro in 2009 but fast-forward seven years and once again, he is the number two player in the world.
This season to date, he has won five titles including his seventh at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati where for the first time in his career, he defeated the number one and two player to secure the title. Earlier this season, he won his 7th title at the Dubai Tennis Championships and 8th title at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany
It's worth noting that in 2008, his forehand was deemed consistently more reliable and lethal than his backhand while in 2015, the reverse appears to be true; perhaps due in part to the racquet change made last season. Incredulously, he appears to be moving as well as he did seven years ago despite recently turning thirty-four.
Last week at the Western and Southern Open, he dominated the field with his explosive ground-game and impeccable serving. It was the second time in his illustrious career (Cincinnati 2012) that he won a Masters 1000 event without losing serve or a set. Mononucleosis in 2008 not withstanding, Federer has managed to remain remarkably healthy over the course of his storied career and with five titles and two wins over Djokovic this season, history just might repeat itself this September at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York.
The current world number two silenced the critics and found redemption through his superlative play in defeating Murray in 2008 for his fifth consecutive US Open title. Irrefutably, seven years later, the 17-time grand slam champion and number two seed at next week's Open has laid to rest any lingering doubt that he is both mentally and physically fit to compete and defeat the game's elite.