NEW YORK — First came the end of Roger Federer’s remarkable run of reaching a record 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals.
Then he failed to make it to a major semifinal after a record 23 in a row.
The U.S. Open marks Federer’s last chance to prevent the close of another streak: In each season from 2003 to 2010, he won at least one Grand Slam title - and sometimes as many as three. He’s 0-for-2011 heading into the year’s last major tournament, where play is scheduled to begin Monday morning, after what the U.S. Tennis Association said was “minimal damage” to the site over the weekend from Tropical Storm Irene.
This U.S. Open also is Federer’s first major tournament since he turned 30 on Aug. 8. That age tends to represent a barrier to success in tennis: Of the past 100 Grand Slam titles, only five were won by a man past his 30th birthday. The last to do it was Andre Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open.
Federer, though, said that his age hasn’t affected his expectations.
“Hasn’t changed anything. I’m still as professional. I’m still as hungry. Everything’s still completely normal,” he explained. “It’s just a number that’s changed. I’m ready to go.”
His resume is filled with some rather impressive numbers, including 16 Grand Slam titles and five consecutive U.S. Open championships from 2004 through 2008, before his 40-match winning streak at Flushing Meadows ended in the 2009 final against Juan Martin del Potro. Last year, Federer lost in the semifinals to Novak Djokovic.
For his career, Federer is 223-33 in Grand Slam matches, an .871 winning percentage. He can tie Agassi for the second-most victories at majors - Jimmy Connors retired with 233 - by beating 54th-ranked Santiago Giraldo of Colombia (who is 2-10 in Grand Slam play) on Monday.
They’re slated to play their first-round match in Arthur Ashe Stadium at night, after seven-time major champion Venus Williams meets Vesna Dolonts of Russia.
Other matches on the Day 1 schedule include 2006 U.S. Open champion Maria Sharapova against Heather Watson of Britain; and No. 8 Mardy Fish - the highest-seeded American in New York for the first time - against Tobias Kamke of Germany.
Even though Federer only has one title so far this season, his lowest total in a decade, and he’s gone the past six major tournaments without a championship, he’s sure he has more success in store.
“This guy is arguably the greatest of all time,” seven-time major champion John McEnroe said. “He’s still playing some great tennis.”
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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