New York:Roger Federer admits that the heat is off as he assumes the unfamiliar position of second seed for the US Open starting from Monday.
A week after winning a consolation Beijing Olympics doubles gold medal, the champion at the last four editions of the New York major said on Saturday that life has changed slightly on court now that he trails Rafael Nadal.
"For five years almost I was expected to win every tournament I entered," said the 27-year-old with a dozen Grand Slam titles. "Other than on clay, I was always expected to win.
"Maybe now it changes a little bit, because obviously there's a shift in the rankings.
"Rafa will now feel what I had to feel for a very long time."
Federer, who lost his top ATP status after a four-and-a-half year run last Monday - the day after his Spanish rival won a gold medal in Beijing - said it will be "interesting to see how he handles it".
"But so far he's been great and played so well on all. Maybe it's nice to go into a Grand Slam for a change not having 'number one' next to me."
While Federer may sound somewhat relieved, he is not about to roll over during the final major chance of a season when he has not claimed a Grand Slam.
"I know what it takes to win the US Open," emphasised the multiple champion. "That's always a huge advantage I have. I come here as a defending champion, so I always have great feelings about this place."
He added that a jam-packed 2008 schedule has taken a toll on himself and other rivals.
"This is quite a unique season. Rafa wasn't happy with the clay court season. I was not particularly happy with scheduling at the Olympics. We all wish we would have had more time between Wimbledon and the Olympic Games - or after.
"But there was not really a whole lot we could do because of the Olympic Games. Every four years maybe there will be a tough season like this.
"Next year's schedule will already be much better. We'll have much more time and won't be forced to play every single week."
Bracing the bottom of the draw at Flushing Meadows, Federer begins in the first round against Argentine outsider Maximo Gonzalez.