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Beyond the Baseline

Novak Djokovic on Roger Federer's slump: 'It's normal to go up and down'

Federer, a 17-time Slam champion, has dropped to his lowest ranking in over 10 years. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) Federer, a 17-time Slam champion, has dropped to his lowest ranking in over 10 years. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK -- It's still a shock to see a No. 7 next to Roger Federer's name. The 17-time Grand Slam champion, who plays No. 61 Grega Zemlja in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday, has dropped to his lowest ranking in more than 10 years. But he sees the U.S. Open as an opportunity to pick up rankings points.

"The older you get the less you pay a bit of attention about [the rankings]," Federer told reporters during the U.S. Open's Media Day. "But nevertheless, clearly want to move up from here. I only have the quarters to defend, so I hope I can add some points to the rankings."

"No. 7 I don't think is a huge drop from No. 4, but people are going to say what they like. Important is that I concentrate on my game and, you know, that the passion is there, that I work the right way, that I'm prepared, and then that I feel like I can win a tournament."

From Novak Djokovic's point of view, Federer's dip in form highlights what makes the sport so difficult to dominate.

"Yeah, [he's] having results‑wise probably the worst year he had in probably last 10 years," Djokovic said. "I'm sure he knows what he's doing.  He's probably focusing on the Grand Slams, and that's where he wants to perform his best. And, yes, it is unusual to see that he's No. 7 of the world, you know, after being so dominant and so consistent every year in last 10 years, always being 1, 2 in the world.

"You can't always expect somebody to be at the highest level," Djokovic continued. "It's normal to go up and down. That's why this sport is so, in the end, very demanding, you know, physically, mentally, emotionally. In any way you turn it around, the sport is actually asking from a tennis player everything, you know, all the commitment possible from every aspect. That's why we love it, you know. It gives us a lot, but, you know, in return you have to work very hard in order to be the best in the world.

Federer, who made the quarterfinals last year before losing to Tomas Berdych, 7-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, is projected to play Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. It's a tantalizing prospect but his focus is on taking it one match at a time. The two have faced off 31 times but never at the U.S. Open.

"I think it's an exciting draw really, the section, with Rafa being nearby," Federer said. "Plus we have never played here. I really hope, you know, from my side that I can make it."

Nadal seems to be the man to beat in New York, after going undefeated on hard courts this season (15-0) and winning titles in Indian Wells, Montreal, and Cincinnati. According to Federer, it's the most impressive hard court run Nadal has ever had. "It would be different if it was just Indian Wells and Miami where it's very slow over there, and then, you know, Montreal and Cincinnati would have been first rounds. But, you know, he won those as well, and he showed also on the quicker hard courts he's someone to be reckoned with."

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