'The fans really turned it around for me'
Roger Federer would like to repay New York fans for their support by treating them to a sixth successive US Open triumph at the year's last Grand Slam beginning on Monday.
Federer is one step away from matching the feat accomplished by Bill Tilden, who won six US national titles in a row from 1920 before the championships were open to professionals.
"The fans really turned it around for me, and that's why this year I'm so excited going back there," Federer, 28, told reporters after winning the Cincinnati Masters this month.
"I hope I can again show them what I can do on a tennis court."
Image: Roger Federer
'Everybody was stopping to wish me luck'
Federer came to New York at a low point last year, losing a spectacular Wimbledon final to Rafael Nadal, losing his number one ranking to the Spaniard and then losing in his bid for Olympic singles gold in Beijing.
The Swiss rode a rousing wave of fan support to clinch his fifth Open at Flushing Meadows, however, and this year won his first French Open to complete a career Grand Slam.
He then went on to reclaim the Wimbledon title in July for a record 15th Grand Slam crown to surpass American great Pete Sampras.
"They were great," Federer said of his New York reception. "Like all the cab drivers and everybody was stopping to wish me luck.
"It was something that I've never really experienced before in New York. I think that really helped turn it around for me."
I can obviously win the tournament: Murray
Federer's primary challengers have their own cause for optimism at the Open.
World number two Andy Murray of Britain, runner-up to Federer last year after advancing to his first Grand Slam final, believes he is ready to take the next step.
"I believe that if I play well, I can obviously win the tournament," said Murray, who has won five tournaments this year including four on hard courts.
The Scotsman's win this month in Montreal leapfrogged him into the number two ranking above Rafael Nadal, who lost rankings points while sidelined with tendinitis in both knees.
Image: Andy Murray
Nadal looking to complete career Slam
Australian Open winner Nadal, working his way back to form, needs an Open title to complete his career Slam.
Last year he advanced to the semi-finals, where he lost to Murray. Encouraged by his recovery from injury, the Spaniard told reporters he has a chance to win in Flushing Meadows, drawing admiration from Murray.
"Rafa, he's hungry," Murray said. "His tennis might not be as good as at the start of this year. But I think he's going to be very hungry having missed the big tournament in Wimbledon and he'll want to come back strong here."
But Murray cautioned that the Open's hard courts could slow Nadal down.
"These are the toughest courts to come back on. They are so hard and sticky. It really does hurt the joints."
Image: Rafael Nadal
'Andy believes he can do it'
Andy Roddick, whose 27 singles titles includes the 2003 US Open championship, has adopted a new fitness regime working with Larry Stefanki, his fourth coach since 2003.
The American hopes to build on his gallant effort at Wimbledon where he fell to Federer, 16-14, in the fifth set.
US Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe said he thought fifth-ranked Roddick could use that as a springboard.
"I believe it's motivated him," McEnroe said about the Davis Cup stalwart. "I believe Andy believes he can do it. What he did at Wimbledon showed that he's actually improved as a player and matured as a person."
Image: Andy Roddick
Djokovic also looms as a major threat
Serbian world number four Novak Djokovic also looms as a major threat on the hard courts and has struck a rich vein of form in recent weeks.
The 2008 Australian Open champion hammered Rafael Nadal in straight sets in their semi-final at Cincinnati, before being outplayed by Federer in the final on Sunday.
"Unfortunately I was born in the wrong era," lamented the 22-year-old, who has been beaten in four other finals this year, including two to Nadal and one to Murray.
Image: Novak Djokovic
Del Potro ready to challenge the elite
Another challenger is Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, who came of age at this level during the French Open, stretching Federer to five sets in the semi-finals.
The towering 20-year-old beat Roddick in the Washington final before falling just short against Murray in Montreal and is now eager to secure his place among the elite.
Image: Juan Martin Del Potro