Federer-Nadal rivalry is the draw at US Open
Swiss tennis star Roger Federer will be aiming on Monday to become the first man since the 1920s to win the US Open four times in a row.
The world number one will also be returning to New York looking to increase his dominance of the sport and overcome his Spanish rival Rafael Nadal in what could be nothing less than a Grand Slam tiebreaker.
Federer has won the past three championships at Flushing Meadows, part of his haul of 11 Grand Slam titles - three shy of Pete Sampras' record. But when play begins at the year's last major, he will be looking at another challenge: Rafael Nadal.
Last year, the world number two reached the Open's quarterfinals for the first time, a result he wasn't especially satisfied with given that his stated aim is to play the final in every tournament.
But after showdowns between the two at the French Open and Wimbledon, Federer and Nadal can become the first pair to contest three consecutive Grand Slam finals since Australians Ken Rosewall and Fred Stolle in 1964 and 1965.
Nadal has beaten Federer twice for the title on clay at Roland Garros. The Swiss has beaten the Spaniard twice for the title on grass at the All England Club. So the hard courts of New York could provide a tiebreaker of sorts in what's become a riveting rivalry.
Their five-set epic at Wimbledon in July is the type of match that hooks fans.
"It's two very different athletes that practise their trade very differently, and I see it being a huge factor in the interest that we've had in the sport the last two years," said the head of the Association of Tennis Professionals, Etienne de Villiers.
The defending champion also has an appreciation for what the rivalry means - and why it's compelling.
"We're totally different types, you know? He's a lefty, I'm a righty. He's got a double-handed backhand, I've got the one-handed backhand," Federer said.
"Two different characters - that always works well in the game of tennis," he added. "The dress code is different: he's got that long hair, mine is a bit shorter. He's young, I'm kind of, you know, the experienced type. So I think it's got great potential."
And asked to guess who might lift the US Open trophy on Sepember 9, if he doesn't, Federer doesn't hesitate. "If I would have to put my house on somebody else, [...] I'd put it on Rafael."
Tough job ahead
For the other Swiss making the journey to Flushing Meadow, the likelihood of making their way through to a final is not high.
Switzerland's only other men's player in the draw, Stanislas Wawrinka, has played some good matches in North America, defeating world number eight Tommy Robredo at the New Haven tournament. But he is not even considered an outside chance at this point.
The women would seem to have better prospects, with Patty Schnyder and Martina Hingis seeded 11th and 16th respectively. But many observers believe Schnyder lacks the consistency to fulfil her potential, while Hingis is still struggling to find the form that saw her dominate women's tennis in the late 1990s.
Two other Swiss women will be taking part: Timea Bacsinszky and Emmanuelle Gagliardi. Bacsinszky will be looking for experience at her first US Open, while Gagliardi will be participating in her tenth, so far with little success.
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Roger Federer profile
Date of birth: August 8, 1981
Plays: Right-handed, single-handed backhand
Turned pro: 1998
As of August 20, 2007)
Singles record: 528 wins, 131 losses
Singles titles: 50
Career prize money: $33,240,078
US Open facts
Surface: Hard court.
2006 Men's Singles Champion: Roger Federer
2006 Women's Singles Champion: Maria Sharapova of Russia.
American Bill Tilden was the last man to win the US Grand Slam four times in a row, taking six straight titles from 1920-25.
Prize money: the men's and women's singles champions receive $1.4 million (SFr1.68 million) each.
Total purse: $19.6 million at least.
If he wins, Federer stands to take home a record $2.4 million that includes a special bonus for best overall result in a series of North American tournaments.
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