It has been over two years since Roger Federer last won a Grand Slam, but the 2014 U.S. Open is setting up to be a memorable one.
At 33 years old, the Swiss player has shown signs of aging over the last several years. In 2013, Federer was unable to reach a single final and was dropped in the second round at Wimbledon, his earliest departure since 2002.
Recent play, though, has some wondering if he's hit a second wind in his career. On the heels of a Wimbledon final, Federer returned to the hard court and won the Western and Southern Open over David Ferrer.
That was his 80th singles title for his impressive career. Winning the U.S. Open would mark his 18th Grand Slam. The recent string of play has Federer as one of the top favorites, as Courtney Nguyen of Sports Illustrated notes:
All the recent numbers point to Federer as the well-deserved favorite at this year's U.S. Open. ... In a summer when everyone else seemed to flop, Federer rose to the top. Without his perennial stopper Rafael Nadal in the U.S. Open draw, Federer has to be licking his chops.
While Federer's Cincinnati title and Wimbledon run are crucial to his success at the U.S. Open, the final part of Nguyen's point might be just as important.
Rafael Nadal, the U.S. Open defending champion, was forced to withdraw due to a wrist injury. Without the Spanish player in the bracket, Federer has a much easier path to the final. In fact, Federer's side of the bracket means he won't face a 2014 Grand Slam winner until the final.
Tennis.com provides a look at how the draw shapes up for Federer:
Nadal may be out, but the other top competitors have also been underwhelming as of late.
Novak Djokovic may have held off Federer at Wimbledon, but he has been scuffling on the hard court. The world No. 1 fell to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in Toronto and Tommy Robredo in Cincinnati, not advancing past the Round of 16 in either tournament.
The other member of the Big Four, Andy Murray, has failed to win a Grand Slam this season. While the likes of Grigor Dimitrov and Tomas Berdych might prove to be worthy adversaries, Federer should be able to get past both.
As for Federer, he comes in brimming with confidence after the Cincinnati title. The Swiss player spoke about his recent play and assurance ahead of the U.S. Open, per the ATP Staff:
Just overall it went from good to great. Just really pleased that I was able to back up a tough week last week already.
... Especially now I come in with great confidence. I can really rest now, rather than having to work on stuff, so it's just about maintaining. That's also really good for the mind ... I know my game is where I want it to be. It's about just keeping that level up right now.
Federer is not only looking to win his 18th major, but continue to rewrite history. As a living legend on the court, he has a chance to claim yet another Grand Slam over some of the world's best emerging players.
Some might write off the victory with Nadal out of the running, but this is far from an easy field to advance through. Myriad young players are hoping to earn their first Grand Slam, but Federer isn't ready to pass the torch just yet.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.