FLUSHING, QUEENS (PIX11)—Several Januarys ago, Roger Federer --one of the greatest tennis players of all time -- cried after losing the Australian Open to his rival, Rafael Nadal, of Spain. The two men had battled five sets, for more than four hours, but the five-years-younger Nadal had, once again, foiled the Swiss sensation's dream of tying Pete Sampras' record of 14, Grand Slam singles titles.
In the three years since, Federer has married, become father to twin daughters, and clinched four more major titles -- to become the all-time greatest, Grand Slam champion in the history of men's tennis. His on-court nemesis, Rafa Nadal, is sitting out this U.S. Open with a knee injury, as Federer goes for his 18th Slam.
The elegant athlete from Basel, Switzerland, said initially, he was concerned when he learned his wife, Mirka, was pregnant with twins in 2009. "I was worried about my practices. I was worried about the playing schedule, that it was never going to be the same again."
Federer credits his wife, a former Yugoslavian tennis player, with keeping it all together for him. Recently, he won his 17th Slam on Centre Court in Wimbledon, with his daughters watching from the sidelines -- all dressed up with frilly socks and white shoes.
"Seeing my kids in the stands after the match, yeah, doesn't get any better than that," Federer told us. "It was a dream come true for me."
Andy Murray of Scotland -- ranked No.3 in the world--is one of the star players who hopes to best Federer here at the U.S. Open, which runs for two weeks. Murray told us he was haunted a bit, after losing to Federer in the Wimbledon final in July, disappointing millions of British fans.
"After Wimbledon, like four days after Wimbledon, I dreamt I WON Wimbledon, and I woke up in the morning, and I was just starting to feel better (laughter). That didn't help," Murray recalled with a smile.
But, Murray beat Federer in the Olympic final just weeks later, also on Centre Court in Wimbledon, picking up a gold medal for Great Britain.
The champion here at the U.S. Open will earn $1,900,000 in prize money, so there's great incentive to win.
American Serena Williams -- who recently won gold in both singles and doubles at the London Olympics in women's tennis --is going for her 15th Slam. Like Federer, she is 30 -- and she also won Wimbledon this year. Even though she's not the top seed at the U.S. Open, fellow players are calling Williams the one to beat.
"You've got to embrace it, whether you're the favorite or the one to beat or whether you are not. And I embrace it," Williams said at the press briefing this weekend.
Williams had a famous meltdown at the U.S. Open in 2009, when she threatened to shove a tennis ball down a lineswoman's throat, because the official called her on a "foot fault" during a crucial point. Last year, she made it to the final -- and lost in straight sets to Samantha Stosur of Australia. She had a smaller outburst, when an umpire objected to her yelling "Come on!", after a strong rally.
Kim Clijsters of Belgium -- a three-time winner of the U.S. Open -- who will retire after this one, said of Serena: "To me, Serena is the best ever, just because I think physically, she just stands out. When she's in good shape, I think she just stands out tremendously....she's fast, she's strong, she has a very good eye, as well."
More than a million visitors are expected at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the next, two weeks, an event that generates hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars for the United States Tennis Association.
An American man hasn't won the event, since Andy Roddick lifted the trophy in 2003.
Let's see if this Open is the year of the 30 year-olds! Who knows? In tennis, 30 could be the new 20.
Edited By Michelle Robinson