August 24, 2017 / 6:55 PM / 4 months ago

Federer's comeback season 'off the charts', says pundits

(Reuters) - Should an age-defying Roger Federer win the U.S. Open and capture his third grand slam title of the year, it would go down as one of the wondrous chapters in tennis, a trio of pundits said on Thursday.

The rejuvenated 36-year-old Swiss, who has said winning a third grand slam in 2017 would “be a joke,” will be among the favorites at Flushing Meadows where he is seeded third for the Aug. 28-Sept. 10 U.S. Open.

“If Federer were to win the Open, if he’s not the athlete of the year on every kind of major publication it will be the greatest injustice I’ve ever seen for tennis,” former men’s coach and player Brad Gilbert said on an ESPN conference call.

“It would be his greatest year without a doubt. He’s pushing the limits to what a 36 year old can do that we’ve ever seen in tennis and it’s just been a pleasure to watch.”

The former world number one has won three grand slams in a calendar year three times before, but not since 2007. Prior to this year, Federer’s last grand slam triumph had been at Wimbledon in 2012. In the years that followed, many questioned whether the Swiss maestro would win another.

But Federer, who missed last year’s U.S. Open as part of a six-month layoff to heal his knee, proved his critics wrong as he upped his record grand slam total to 19 with wins at this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon.

He skipped the French Open, where he won once before in 2009, as part of a calculated decision to avoid playing on clay this season in a bid to prolong a career.

“The only thing you can say that’s a negative in any way is that he didn’t play on clay,” said former U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. “But certainly at his age to do what he’s done if he were to win three majors is off the charts.”

No man has as many grand slams as Federer’s 19, a whopping total that has him four clear of his closest pursuer -- Spain’s Rafa Nadal.

While it is difficult to compare players from different generations, anyone who does not consider Federer the GOAT -- an acronym commonly used for the greatest of all-time -- would have a hard time arguing their case should he be the last man standing in New York.

“If he wins the U.S. and he wins three majors out of four I think it ends once and for all the GOAT conversation,” said Tennis Hall of Famer Cliff Drysdale, a former player on the men’s tour.

“Without it I still think he’s the greatest player that ever played but that would certainly consolidate his position in my mind as the best player to have played the sport of tennis.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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