If there have been questions raised in recent months about where Roger Federer's career is headed, there is at least one person who is adamant that it's far too soon to write him off.
You guessed it: Federer himself.
"As high as my confidence has been the last few years," Federer said in an interview with The Associated Press, "I don't feel like I'm any less confident."
When the US Open begins Monday, Rafael Nadal will try to complete a career Grand Slam, Andy Murray will seek his first major title and Novak Djokovic his second, and Andy Roddick will aim to end an American drought.
And Federer? He gets a chance to show that reports of his demise are premature, and that he still possesses the on-court qualities that let him lord over tennis for so long: the slick movement, the sublime forehand, and the pinpoint serve on display in that popular is-it-real-or-fake YouTube video.
"Rafa, Murray and Djokovic are all looking good, too, so I think it's going to be a US Open with multiple favorites," Federer said. "But I guess I'm one of the big ones or bigger ones - if not the biggest one - because of my history here over the last six years, making the final each year."
That run includes five US Open championships, part of his record haul of 16 Grand Slam titles. It also helped Federer accumulate semifinals-or-better showings at a record 23 consecutive major tournaments, a streak that ended with a quarterfinal loss at this year's French Open.
Another quarterfinal exit followed a month later at Wimbledon, where Federer has won six titles. While many players would be satisfied or even thrilled to reach the quarterfinals at two Grand Slam tournaments in a row, the world has come to expect so much more from Federer.
"I'm sure he's highly motivated to kind of get it right after what, for him, are disappointing Grand Slam results - and for other people are very good Grand Slam results," said Roddick, whose 2003 US Open victory was the last major title for a US man. That pair of early-for-him exits by Federer, plus a six-month title drought, plus a brief slip to No. 3 in the rankings for the first time since 2003 (he's now back up to No. 2, behind Nadal), plus his age (he turned 29 on Aug. 8), led some to wonder whether he would ever win another Grand Slam title.
Others simply shrugged.
"He's human, even though he was making results that didn't seem human the last five, six years," said Djokovic, whose only losses at the past three US Opens came against Federer, in the 2007 final and the 2008-09 semifinals. "It just proves there's a lot of players now coming up and not being scared anymore to play their best in the important matches."
Federer has heard negative talk before.