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Roger Federer was at the centre of attention on Saturday during Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, for far more reasons than just his new hairstyle. The world No. 1 is scheduled to begin his 2012 US Open campaign on Monday, and for the first time in quite a while he appears to be the favourite to win a slam. He'll begin with a first round showdown against American hopeful Donald Young.
Federer was questioned in his press conference about his painful semi-final loss against Novak Djokovic here last year. He stated that it was one of the things that inspired him to get back to the top of the rankings.
"Well, I think it's not only last year's match that made me get back to world No. 1," said Federer. "There's been a lot of sacrifices done before this match here. Remember, I also had a tough loss at Wimbledon. That also shook things up a little bit. And then when it happened a second time around after being up two sets to love, I took a bit of a break after going to Sydney for Davis Cup the following week after here."
Federer's return to the top seems to have boosted his confidence. "I think I felt good last year," said the top seed. "But probably felt that maybe at times the matches were not always in my racquet, whereas maybe this time around I feel like if I'm playing well I can dictate who's going to win or lose. It's going to take something special from my opponent to win."
"That's kind of how it feels right now; then again, I might walk away from Monday and lost the first round. You have to always be very careful how you say it and how you then play. I will take it one match at a time. There's no doubt about that. I will never ever underestimate an opponent ever again. I did that enough when I was a teenager. Those times are long gone. I'm just happy how I'm playing."
These comments bode well for Federer and his fans ahead of round one. He's been pitted against world No. 80 Donald Young. Once heralded as a future star of American tennis, Young has failed to meet the expectations placed on him in the early stages of his career.
Federer should be able to dismiss Young with minimal fuss. The American has been in terrible form all year and didn't exactly excel in Winston-Salem last week, despite looking a lot sharper than he has in recent months.
There's no doubting that Federer wants to win this title either. His passion for the game is clearly still as strong as ever. His comments only seem to back this up.
"I already reached my goal for the year becoming world No. 1 and getting Wimbledon again and getting a medal for Switzerland. It's been incredible," said Federer. "But I do have this one left for me this year where I really, really want to do well, and I couldn't be more happy returning here as No. 1. It's super exciting."