By Tim Wharnsby
(Reuters) - The U.S. Open has long been a tournament for the 20-something set but an in-form Roger Federer is looking to break that trend at the year's final grand slam.
In the last three-plus decades only Pete Sampras in 2002 and Jimmy Connors in 1983 won the men's side of the tournament at Flushing Meadows in their 30s. Both were 31.
Now here comes 34-year-old Federer, fresh off an impressive win on the hardcourts in Cincinnati. Even though he is seven years removed from his last Flushing Meadows triumph, Federer has been buoyed from an equipment change and his work with two-times U.S. Open champion Stefan Edberg.
"I would like to give Stefan a lot of credit and he has helped me in a big way," said Federer, who won five straight U.S. Open titles between 2004 and 2008.
"But I think the backhand is better since I also have a bigger racket head. I really think that was the change because it happened at the same time."
The 17-times grand slam champion moved into second spot in the world rankings with his win over Novak Djokovic in the Cincinnati final, which means he will not face the Serbian world number one unless the rivals reach the Sept. 13 final.
"Number two, three doesn't really matter," the Swiss maestro said. "To be quite honest, I don't think that far ahead because I haven't been in a final since 2009 (when he lost to Argentine Juan Martin del Potro).
"So I've got my work cut out."
Last year, Marin Cilic of Croatia claimed his first grand slam title with a straight sets win over Japan's Kei Nishikori. There has not been a successful defense on the men's side at Flushing Meadows since Federer's run.
As the ninth seed, Cilic is on Djokovic's side of the draw and could face fourth seed Nishikori in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic, Federer and Andy Murray arrive as the favorites. Murray won in Montreal. Both Federer and Murray beat Djokovic for their Masters Series wins in August.
Murray has the most difficult U.S. Open draw of the three because he will meet unseeded Australian Nick Kyrgios in the first round and possibly French Open champion and fifth seed Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.
As the eighth seed, two-times champion Rafa Nadal has a potential clash with Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)