Djokovic emerged from a difficult two-year period to make a stunning run to the Wimbledon title last month, adding a 13th major to his tally, and shooting back into the world’s top-10.
Murray, who spent nearly a year away from the sport dealing with a hip injury that required surgery, played just his seventh match of the season on Monday in Cincinnati but built some momentum by making the quarter-finals in Washington earlier this month.
Cincinnati was supposed to be the first reunion for all members of the ‘Big Four’ (Rafael Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray) since Wimbledon last year but Nadal made a last-minute withdrawal after he clinched the title in Toronto on Sunday.
Still, with the quartet all set to contest the US Open – which starts on August 27 – Federer is expecting a scorcher in New York.
The Swiss was shocked by Kevin Anderson in a marathon five-setter in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last month and witnessed Djokovic secure the trophy from afar. He believes the Serb’s triumph can only mean good things for tennis.
“I think that’s why we have an exciting draw here. Of course it’s a pity Rafa is not playing, which would add massively to that section of the draw there now, that he’s not there, it’s a bit of a bummer. But other than that you have still these amazing draws, with [Milos] Raonic floating, [Kei] Nishikori floating a little bit, Stan [Wawrinka], Murray, even Novak who is not quite in the top-four yet in the rankings. So you just don’t know where they’re going to be situated in the draw,” Federer told reporters in Cincinnati on Monday, where he is looking to win the title for an eighth time.
Djokovic began his Cincinnati campaign overnight, against Steve Johnson, and is seeded No. 10 in the Masters 1000 event. He was initially drawn in Nadal’s quarter of the draw but the Spaniard has now been replaced by Tunisian lucky loser Malek Jaziri.
“Novak winning Wimbledon obviously that was massive, I don’t think he expected it,” continued Federer.
“I remember the press conference he gave after Paris [losing to Marco Cecchinato] when he was like ‘I don’t know yet I was frustrated, I just want to get out of here’. And people were asking him ‘What, you’re not going to play the grass?’ And then he should have won Queens and goes on to win Wimbledon, so things can turn very quickly, regardless if you’re positive or not, sometimes when you just put yourself out there and then you get excited in a quarters of semis of a Slam you can start playing your best tennis.
“I thought it was great for the sport, I’m happy for him because I know it probably it hasn’t been easy the last couple of years for him but then again I don’t think anybody should be feeling sorry for him, like people feeling sorry for me or Rafa, we’ve had so much success that it’s just more beautiful when you do come back after a tough time.”
Djokovic’s Wimbledon success ended a streak of six consecutive Grand Slams captured by either Nadal or Federer and the trio will have all eyes on them at the US Open in two weeks’ time.
“Novak can play with less pressure again I guess, to some extent, but you can always get caught up in the pressure, the media saying ‘well clearly now you’re going to win the US Open’, and you’re like ‘Well, I guess so, yes’. And then rather than you being able to say ‘Well, we’ll see what happens’, perspective changes from your side but also from the media. But definitely exciting times, a lot of the best players are back in the game and I think the US Open is going to be epic,” said the 37-year-old Federer, who plays Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk in the second round in Cincinnati.
Murray fell to France’s Lucas Pouille in the first round on Monday 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.
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