MASON, Ohio (AP) – Roger Federer reckons that it wouldn’t take much to prevent him from winning his second straight U.S. Open title.

A virus. An injury. A windy day that makes everything go awry.

“A little thing needs to go wrong and you lose,” he said.

For everyone else, maybe. It’s going to take a whole lot more to keep the Swiss star from extending one of the most dominant runs in ATP history.

Federer won his 22nd consecutive tournament final on Sunday, dispatching Andy Roddick and any thought that he was vulnerable after a long summer layoff. His two-set victory for the Cincinnati Masters title made him the prohibitive favorite for the tournament at Flushing Meadows, which begins next Monday.

“Federer is in a class of his own,” said Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, who lost the Open final to Federer last year.

And few players have marks like Federer, who turned 24 this month and has only recently come into his prime. He’s been No. 1 for 82 consecutive weeks, one of the longest stays in ATP rankings history.

Federer is 138-9 over the last two years, including 54-3 this season. He has won his last 28 matches on hard courts. He and Rafael Nadal are tied with nine ATP titles this year. The last three Wimbledon titles belong to Federer.

He’s playing so well that opponents have no margin for error – a factor that weighs on their nerves and their shots.

“You have to play pretty close to perfect,” said James Blake, who lost a first-round match to Federer in Cincinnati.

The rest of the field had a little hope when Federer decided to take off after beating Roddick in July for his latest Wimbledon title. Federer knows he’s on the cusp of history, as long as he doesn’t burn out or break down.

He went home to Oberwil, Switzerland, for a public celebration of his fifth Grand Slam title, then went on vacation. He celebrated his birthday and practiced, but mostly rested his sore feet. He knew it was a huge risk – he’d be going into the U.S. Open with only the tournament in Cincinnati to get ready.

By the time he got to the final, it looked like Wimbledon all over.

“Everything comes very automatic now,” he said. “I don’t need to think anymore where I’m going to hit the balls. They just go automatically. That’s very important in my game, because I need to play with the flow.”

That’s the best way to describe his game. There’s nothing dominant – no overpowering serve like Roddick, no incredible quickness like Nadal – but no weakness, either. Plus, the biggest points in a match bring out his best.

Given the state of the rest of the field, he’ll be the undisputed front-runner at the U.S. Open.

Andre Agassi, who lost to Federer in a five-set quarterfinal match at the Open last year, had to withdraw from Cincinnati because his 35-year-old back was acting up. Roddick hurt his right foot during the final on Sunday, leaving his condition in doubt.

Russia’s Marat Safin has a slight tear in his left knee, and five weeks of rest after Wimbledon didn’t eliminate the pain. Nadal has matched Federer in tournament titles this year, but the 19-year-old Spaniard hasn’t demonstrated that he can win consistently on hard courts.

The New York crowds will try to coax an upset out of one of the Americans, but will likely end up applauding a player whose fame hasn’t caught up with his accomplishments on this side of the ocean.

“It took a while for the fans to warm to Pete Sampras,” Blake said. “I think he’s comparable to that because he goes about his business, he doesn’t throw temper tantrums, he doesn’t do anything like that. He goes about it in a very honorable way, which I really appreciate.

“And I think the fans, as he gets closer and closer to history, will appreciate it more and more.”


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