Merely Mortal, Federer Starts US Open
4-time champion faces uphill battle to defend title
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2008 7:33 AM CDT
Tennis players Roger Federer, left, of Switzerland, and Rafael Nadal of Spain shake hands in New York, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008. The US Open starts Monday. Nadal is the top seed, and Federer is No. 2.    (AP Photo/Ed Ou)
camera-icon View 5 more images

(Newser) – The US Open starts today, and Roger Federer will defend his title at Flushing Meadows from an unfamiliar position—the No. 2 seed. Although he's won the tournament 4 years straight, a torrid 2008 has left the Swiss champion extremely vulnerable. "That twinkling star over his head has been replaced by an evil cloud," writes New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton.

This year Federer has endured a "frightful thrashing" by Rafael Nadal on the Paris clay, defeat in a marathon Wimbledon final, a humiliation at the Olympics, and the loss of his No. 1 ranking. It's ironic then, that Federer's celebrity has never been greater, with his PR firm promoting ever more media opportunities. "The brand is established," writes Araton. "But who is this strangely diminished player that comes along with it?"