Federer stays as motivated as ever at U.S. Open

It can’t be easy to be Roger Federer some days.

Not because he occasionally has to help his wife Mirka change the diapers of their new twin girls, but because on many days when he goes to work, he has to confront an opponent he’s beaten time and time again.

How the 15-time Grand Slam champion stays motivated is beyond belief. Two days ago, he took down former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt for the 14th straight time. On Monday at the U.S. Open, he hammered Tommy Robredo 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 for his ninth victory in nine attempts over the Spaniard.

In the quarterfinals, Federer will have his third straight Grand Slam clash against Sweden’s Robin Soderling, whom he worked over in the French Open final and the fourth round of Wimbledon. He is 11-0 against the strong yet vulnerable Swede.

But Federer isn’t giving anything away because he wants to remain Roger Federer. The king of his sport who is so successful that he’s not heavily criticized for being too cocky and wearing the “RF” logo on his signature line of hats.

“It’s not like even trying to beat (Robredo) again,” Federer said. “It’s just about having fun out there, playing a good match, playing good tennis, enjoying the moment, playing in packed stadiums. It’s something not many people get an opportunity to do. I think everybody would love to be in my shoes. Why should I give away my spot really because I enjoy too much and people love to come see me play? So this is motivation alone for me. It’s plenty.”

It seems to be. Federer was so happy in the third set, up 5-1 against Robredo, that after missing a line call challenge (he despises instant replay), he actually laughed out loud.

“Maybe it’s too easy for him, the tennis, so he can even laugh,” said Robredo after Federer crushed 35 winners and only had 18 unforced errors, winning 87 percent of his first-serve points. “When he saw that he was up a set, he started to hit, started hitting harder and with confidence. Then it’s tough to handle it. Then you have to try to hit harder sometimes and the match goes easy for him.”

Federer would argue that it never came easy, and although he concedes that his balletic movement came naturally, he decided to work hard nonetheless to become quicker and better balanced.

Among his many strengths is his forehand, where he has no trouble running as hard as he can to his right and hooking back a laser beam into the corner. He can also lightly skip to his left and protect his weaker backhand side. All the while whipping blazing shots down the line, or reversing the direction of the ball heavily to the right side of the court.

In some ways, this has become a “prove it” Slam for Federer. Not because it’s a necessary title run — he won the sole major that eluded him at Roland Garros this year and broke Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors with his sixth Wimbledon title — but because in Paris and London, he didn’t have to face the two men that have given him the most trouble over the past year.

That would be six-time Slam champ Rafael Nadal and world No. 2 Andy Murray. He cannot face both of them at this major because the Scot and the Spaniard are on the other side of the draw, but he may face one of them in the final.

He’s 7-13 against Nadal, but did beat him the last time they faced off in Madrid and clearly, Nadal’s abdominal muscle injury is affecting him. He’s 3-6 against Murray, but also scored a win over him in their last match in Cincinnati.

But what Federer would really love is to take down one of those two men in the final and then there will be no lingering questions as to who the player of the year is. He seems more than prepared to take on the challenge.

At the start of the season, he was mentally straining and unable to get over on the rest of the Big 4. Now, he’s flying about the court, playing mostly by instinct.

“I guess if things go well, you don’t ask yourself that many questions,” said Federer, whose win over Robredo was his 38th consecutive victory at Flushing Meadows. “I concentrate on what I do best. Then I’ll decide what comes from my opponent. I’ll adjust. I like playing the game that way instead of trying to figure out every possible move there is out there.”

Oudin’s run continues

Unseeded American teen Melanie Oudin’s run is certainly a Cinderella story, but she’s not winning over the public with a new ballroom dress and a twinkle in her eye. She’s impressing the world with her vim and vigor.

She’s taken down four Russians in a row to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, three of whom have been, at some point, top five players: Elena Dementieva, Maria Sharapova and on Monday, Nadia Petrova in a 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory.

She’s been quick, powerful and gritty and has played better than anyone in a now torn-apart top half of the draw.

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“Today there are no tears because I believed that I could do it,” Oudin said. “Now I know that I do belong here. This is what I want to do, and I can compete with these girls, no matter who I’m playing. I have a chance against anyone.”

She’ll face another teenager next — No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who upended French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3). It’s the promising Wozniacki’s first visit to a Slam quarter too, and the 19-year-old with the hatchet of a backhand made it via a mental meltdown by Kuznetsova, who was very sloppy in key moments.

It’s been a disappointing event for Russia as all 24 its players are now gone, including Nikolay Davydenko, who retired against Soderling.

While Oudin and Serena Williams remain in the women’s draw, the black curtain fell on the American men, when John Isner went down 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Fernando Verdasco.

It’s the first time in the Open Era (1968 to present) that no U.S. male reached the quarters.