The US Open is underway, and Roger Federer kicked off his campaign for the first time under the roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium with a hard fought 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 victory over Frances Tiafoe in 2 hours and 47 minutes.
The Swiss, bidding for his sixth title at Flushing Meadows, played a five setter in the opening round of a Grand Slam for the first time since 2010 where he beat Alejandro Falla at Wimbledon despite the Colombian serving for the match. This one wasn't quite as big a nail biter as the Falla encounter but Roger had to draw on all his experience to come through after being broken serving for the match in the fifth to finally progress into the second round.
Quick Match Recap
Tiafoe won the toss and elected to receive. The decision paid off as he broke Roger to 15. The 19-year-old then fended off a break point to consolidate for 2-0. A cautious looking Federer held to 30 in game three to get on the board, but Tiafoe kept his intensity high for the remainder of the set, hitting big serves and forehands to take it 6-4.
Into set 2 and both players were forced to deuce in their opening service games. A hold to 15 put Roger up 2-1, and he was able to finally break for 3-1. At 4-1 the Swiss had a chance for the double break which he couldn't convert, but he wrapped it up in game eight by breaking to 15 to take it 6-2.
Momentum was now on Roger's side, and after holding for 1-0, he broke the Tiafoe serve to put him in the driving seat. 2-0 was quickly 5-1, and Roger had moved up a gear to take the third set 6-1.
It looked like Roger would be able to wrap up the match in four, but in game four he carelessly lost serve for 3-1 as Tiafoe began to go after his shots. The American's second wind got him another break for 5-1, and he served it out 6-1 to force a decider.
Roger's impeccable record in five setters this year put him as the favourite in the decider and with Tiafoe's level dropping slightly compared to the fourth set he was able to break to lead 3-1. The Swiss maintained his lead as he went 5-3 up but somehow managed to drop serve when serving for it. Fortunately, Tiafoe wasn't able to take full advantage, slipping to 15-40 when serving to stay in it and Roger converted his second match point to move into the second round.
|Match Statistics||R. Federer||F. Tiafoe|
|First Serve % In||63/116 (54%)||71/138 (51%)|
|Win % On 1st Serve||49/63 (78%)||48/71 (68%)|
|Win % On 2nd Serve||29/53 (55%)||35/67 (52%)|
|Net Points Won||17/25 (68%)||9/17 (53%)|
|Break Points Won||6/13 (46%)||4/5 (80%)|
|Receiving Points Won||55/138 (40%)||38/116 (33%)|
|Total Points Won||133||121|
|Distance Covered (m)||2348.1||2284.3|
|Distance Covered/pt. (m)||9.2||9|
Thoughts on the Match
I really struggled early on. I think Frances connected well. I just really kind of lost my footing sometimes. My eye wasn't working. I was misjudging the distance. I think I was also being a bit cautious with my movement. In the second set I think it all started to come together. That was good. But because of the preparation being not the best that I've had, I think I was quite up and down. Every time I was down, Frances took care of it. Then in the fifth, it was just more of get the energy back, play to win, don't just play to hope that he will miss. I think I did that, so I'm really, really excited that I won tonight. I'm very happy.
Whenever you wake up at 3 am to watch Federer play you either want a super quick match or a high-quality classic. Unfortunately, this was neither 😀
In my draw preview post, I thought Roger would handle Tiafoe easily, but he came out the blocks in painfully slow fashion to give the American just the start he wanted. The GOAT was cautious on the serve, not sure of foot from the baseline and slow moving from the corners. That combination let Tiafoe have plenty time on the ball to blaze some good looking winners and get up a set without really needing to play that well.
By the middle of set two, Federer looked to have loosened up and was able to play something close to the brand of tennis that's brought him so much success this year to date. He was much quicker on his feet, moving to the ball earlier and was just generally sharper mentally and physically; so it was a big surprise when he dropped the fourth set and went into a fifth set lottery. Fortunately, this is relatively uncharted territory for Tiafoe with only one five setter (l. Isner US Open 2016) to draw experience from, and that helped Federer get over the line especially when he was broken serving for the match.
So I guess the adage a wins a win applies here 🙂 given Fed's less than ideal preparation after tweaking the back it's not a huge surprise he didn't play his best tennis in his first outing here in two years but it's certainly a surprise it went 5. The positives are despite conditions being slow it wasn't a physical match, and he should get a fair bit of intel on his physical condition once he gets out of bed on Wednesday.
Is he still feeling the back problem? Hard to say, it certainly looked like it in the opening set, but he moved much better as the match wore on. In Press, the Swiss said it was a combination of nerves and being cautious after Montreal so guess we just have to take his word for it.
As for Tiafoe? Played pretty fearlessly, a big hitter on both wings, quick around the court, but can't volley, serve is good in patches but a bit wild. So clearly one for the future if he improves like Zverev has done over the last 18 months.
Predictions vs. Youzhny
Next up is veteran Mikhail Youzhny who defeated Blaz Kavcic in four sets, a decent win for the Russian as I thought it had 5 sets written all over it but he came through fairly comfortably based on the scoreline.
Roger first played Youzhny in Stockholm back in 2000 and since then he's racked up 16 wins in a row. A crazily one sided rivalry and I'm expecting it to be 17-0 later tonight if Roger is at full fitness. Youzhny was a very good player back in the day but in 2017 I'm not sure what he brings to the party, a lot of experience for sure but if he's having to do a lot of running I don't like his chances. Will we get a nobody beats Mikhail Youzhny 17 times in a row story? Unlikely but based on the US Open so far I guess anything can happen.
As usual. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. What do you expect in Fed's next match?