US Open: Federer still haunted by defeat to Djokovic
Roger Federer has won the title here five times but when he played Fernando Verdasco in the third round on Saturday the 31-year-old Swiss recalled one of his less enjoyable memories. Last year, for the second US Open in succession, Federer lost to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals. On both occasions he had two match points.
It was the memory of last year's defeat, when Djokovic saved the first with a huge forehand return winner and Federer hit the net on the second, that came to the world No 1's mind as he served out for a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win.
"I thought it was a similar atmosphere, though I guess against Novak it was later in the day," Federer said. "Coming out during the day, when I walked on, it reminded me of the ovation I got from that particular match, and then when I got up to serve for it I think it was the same end as it was against Novak. I just tried to serve this one through. It doesn't matter whether you think about it or not. It was funny that I thought about it in a third-round match, but I'm happy that I survived it. I played a really good last game, so I'm happy."
Federer has not won the title here for four years, but the lightning-quick conditions suit his game perfectly. Having achieved his season's goal of regaining both the Wimbledon title and the world No 1 ranking, he is playing without pressure, which has shown in his three straight-sets victories.
Perhaps by way of striking a psychological blow against Andy Murray, who has yet to win a Grand Slam title, Federer said he felt "way less pressure" ever since he won his first major. "Before, when you're trying to break through, make your move, you realise it's so hard," Federer said. "You still have [Andre] Agassi, [Pete] Sampras, the older generation you saw from TV. Not so easy to come through that one. That's not even talking about your generation that also are pushing, trying to make their move.
"I remember I felt an awful lot of pressure because I was very talented and people always said: 'He's going to be the next No 1, the next Grand Slam champion, but it seems like there's something missing.' You're like: 'Yeah, I agree. I agree I could maybe make it, there is something missing, but I haven't figured it out yet.' So you do feel that pressure. You panic a little bit. It's not so simple at times.
"Today obviously everything you have achieved, nobody can take it away from you. By virtue of that, you are much more at peace with everything that goes on in your life."
Federer and Murray are seeded to meet in the semi-finals, but both have plenty of work to do before then. Federer next plays Mardy Fish, with the winner to face Tomas Berdych or Nicolas Almagro.
If Murray beats Raonic he will face either Marin Cilic, who beat him in the fourth round here three years ago, or Slovakia's Martin Klizan. Cilic, who is returning to form after a lean spell, beat Kei Nishikori in four sets, while Klizan followed up his win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga by beating another Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy.