Roger Federer, a decade removed from the 2008 triumph that marked his fifth straight US Open title, is eager to hoist a trophy at Flushing Meadows again.
"It's even a bigger priority this year, the US Open, than it has been last year," the 20-time Grand Slam champion said Friday as he addressed reporters on the new Louis Armstrong Stadium court.
"Not that it wasn't last year, but Wimbledon was key for me. That was where I wasn't well the year before that, so last year we wanted to be ready for Wimbledon. Even skipped the French for that.
"And then obviously not feeling 100 percent last year was hard," added the Swiss great, who was ousted by Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals in New York in 2017.
"I knew from the get-go it was not going to be possible for me to win. Everything would have had to fall into place. Guys would have had to retire against me or played the worst match of their life against me, and maybe then I would have had a chance, but later stages of a tournament is not feasible anymore.
"So the last two years -- especially two years ago when I couldn't play at all -- have just been difficult.
"I'm really excited and happy to be back here healthy again and feeling good and take it one match at a time and see what happens."
The draw has done Federer no favors in his pursuit of a sixth US Open title.
Seeded second behind world number one and defending champion Rafael Nadal, Federer could meet the talented if erratic Australian Nick Kyrgios in the third round, while a renewal of his long rivalry with Novak Djokovic could come in the quarter-finals.
The 37-year-old was, if not happy with the draw, at least resigned.
"You just take it on your chin," Federer said of a potential last-eight clash with Djokovic, who won his 13th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in July and went on to establish himself as a favorite for the US Open with a victory over Federer in the final of the Cincinnati Masters last week.
"Sure, you sometimes wonder is it easier to play guys with not such a resume like a Novak so early in the tournament?" he said.
"But because he won Cincinnati, I could have also played Novak in the fourth round if he wouldn't have made a move in the rankings. So I think we are all happier that he's higher ranked so we don't have to face him already in the first round."
He noted that eighth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov had the bad luck to draw three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, unseeded as he returns from injury, in the first round -- a rematch of the Wimbledon first-rounder that saw Dimitrov sent packing by the Swiss.
"We can't control it," Federer said. "I'm not in a quarter-final match yet. I'm not in a second-round match yet. The next few days are important. How am I feeling by my first-round match? That's what the focus needs to be, and then the draw is what it is."
- Embracing New York -
The key, for Federer, is not who he plays but how well he plays.
He noted that his five titles on the trot came during a remarkable stretch of dominance on the men's tour, which helped carry him through all the demanding conditions the US Open offers -- with night sessions, noisy crowds and the hectic pace of life in New York reflected in the tournament.
"For a long period I think I was not losing much, and when I came to the Open, I had all the answers for all the guys, all my opponents, all conditions, wind, you know, night, day," he said.
"I really embraced everything about New York. I think that's why I rarely had bad tournaments here in New York, because I like playing here."