The boys are back in town: US Open tennis stars face ‘new wave’ of players

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(Top-left: Andy Murray, bottom-left: Rafael Nadal, top-right: Novak Djokovic, bottom-right: Roger Federer)

FLUSHING MEADOWS, QUEENS (PIX11) – When Roger Federer — who dominated the tennis world for a good ten years — sat down for his pre-US Open media chat, we asked the 32-year-old Swiss star what it was like to have a #7 after his name. That’s his seed in this year’s Open, his lowest since 2002. Federer won five straight titles at Flushing Meadows, between 2004 and 2008, and he’s got more Grand Slam trophies than anyone in history: 17.

“Number 7, I don’t think, is a huge drop from Number 4, but people are going to say what they like,” Federer told us.  “Important is that I concentrate on my game and, you know, that the passion is there, that I work the right way, that I’m prepared, and then that I feel like I can win a tournament.”

Federer has won more than $77 million dollars in prize money, since he went pro in 1998.

The popular star from Basel, Switzerland had followed Novak Djokovic of Serbia to the media room, with Djokovic, 26, noting how unusual it was for Federer to be ranked # 7, “after being so dominant and consistent every year in the last 10 years, always being 1,2 in the world.”  That’s when Djokovic observed there’s a “new wave of players, and this is kind of a life cycle and the way it goes.” Djokovic, who’s played in the last three finals at the U.S. Open, took home the trophy in 2011.

Rafael Nadal, 27, of Spain, who was a thorn in Federer’s side in multiple Slam finals, has had his ups and downs in the last year and half — plagued by knee problems — but he’s been playing brilliantly in hard court matches in recent months, with a record of 15-0.

Still, Nadal worries about the up-and-coming players, too, mentioning the young American he will face in the first round at the Open.  “I have tough opponent in front of me, like Ryan Harrison, and I am focused on that,”  Nadal told the media.

An American male hasn’t won the U.S. Open since Andy Roddick hoisted the silver trophy in 2003.

The defending U.S. Open champ is a Scotsman named Andy Murray. Murray won his first, Grand Slam title at the Open in 2012 and he recently captured one that meant even more to his fellow countrymen:  Wimbledon.

He was the first man from the British Isles to win the title in 77 years.  His last game against Novak Djokovic was a nail-biter, with Murray losing several match points during his serve, before finally pulling it off.

“Once I watched it back (on camera), I remembered every, single point,” Murray said of Wimbledon 2013.  “It was a stressful, last game–the hardest game I ever had to play in my career, and I’ll probably never play another one like it.”

And now, Murray says he’s grateful that he doesn’t have to take any more questions from reporters that he endured for years:  When are you going to win a Slam?  The 26 year old now has two under his belt.

Djokovic, who’s currently ranked # 1, put it best:  “You can’t always expect somebody to be at the highest level.  You know, it’s normal to go up and down.  That’s why this sport is so, in the end, very demanding….physically, mentally, emotionally….That’s why we love it, you know.  It gives us a lot, but, you know, in return, you have to work very hard to be the best in the world.”

The first round starts Monday, and an American woman who’s dominated the sport will be defending her title: Serena Williams.

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