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By Chris Oddo | Sunday, August 24, 2014

 
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On the eve of his 60th consecutive Grand Slam appearance, pundits marvel at Roger Federer's longevity.

Photo Source: Christopher Levy

Roger Federer will play his 60th consecutive Grand Slam at this year’s US Open, which is the most consecutive Grand Slam tournaments played by any man in the Open Era, and Federer’s not only playing, he’s considered to be one of the top two favorites to win the whole event.

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That subject was discussed during an ESPN conference call on Friday by Chris Evert, Brad Gilbert and Patrick McEnroe, each of whom confessed to being blown away by not only the fact that Federer is still playing beyond his 33rd birthday (August 8), but that he’s thriving, staying clear of injuries and moving better than he has in years.

“The thing I love about him,” said Evert, “is his temperament is so easy going that he won’t get mentally burned out because he just lets losses and things roll off his back. He’s relied mostly on his physical talent rather than I think the intensity of a Nadal, for instance. Somebody like Nadal or Djokovic I think would burn out mentally. He forgets about the match once it’s been played. That’s why emotionally and mentally he’s been able to sustain that high level.”

Heading into his 15th US Open appearance (which is more than any other active player), Federer has been in good health all season long, unlike his top rivals. With Nadal missing the US Open due to a wrist injury, Djokovic battling a tricky wrist injury that hampered his form during the clay season and Andy Murray recovering from hip surgery that was undergone in 2013, Federer has somehow managed to remain relatively unscathed physical.

“What’s amazing about him is in 15 years he’s had no surgeries, no major injuries,” said Brad Gilbert. “He had this thing last year, 18 months, with his back. He didn’t miss any significant time. That’s first and foremost, that he’s had no serious injuries. He seems to be able to play without barely even sweating, not to mention he’s about one of the only guys that plays on clay, you look at his socks, he doesn’t have any dirt on his socks.”

Avoiding getting dirty, so to speak, is what will eventually set Federer apart from his current rivals, says Evert. She also believes that his style of play—short and sweet and aggressive—will help him prolong his career even further.

“On the physical side, his game is so efficient, his body is efficient,” Evert said. “He doesn’t try to wear you down with 18-ball rallies. He’s pretty much a quick-point player. I think physically, you know, he doesn’t get involved in the long, drawn-out matches, so that helps to preserve his body. I think he’s a different temperament. Nadal, Djokovic and even Murray are completely different. I think their bodies and their minds will give up on them a little earlier than Roger’s will.”

“I think seeing Federer close up as we did in Cincinnati, which obviously he won again for the sixth time, you just marvel at him,” said Patrick McEnroe. “His movement is so phenomenal.”

Federer, who has amassed 80 career titles to go with his 17 Grand Slam titles, is bidding to become just the fifth man in the Open Era to have won two major titles after the age of 30 at this year’s US Open. As the second seed he will begin his bid for a sixth title in New York with a first-round encounter with Australia’s Marinko Matosevic.

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“He’s obviously done an amazing job of taking care of his body, listening to his body,” Gilbert said. “Another thing that he’s really done smartly probably over the last seven, eight years, he plays an incredibly wise schedule. He doesn’t overplay. He seems to plan his schedule for the entire year and sticks to his schedule and listening to his body. He certainly is the Cal Ripken of tennis and what he’s doing should be a landmark for players to emulate how he’s been able to stay healthy and keep himself in the mix.”

 

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