Grand SlamsRoger FedererUS Open

Federer Overcomes Slow Start to Defeat Tiafoe at US Open

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

Fed US Open First Round 2017

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 Stats

Match Statistics R. Federer F. Tiafoe
Aces 17 5
Double Faults 4 6
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%)
Winners 41 23
Unforced Errors 56 49
Total Points Won 133 121
Distance Covered (m) 2348.1 2284.3
Distance Covered/pt. (m) 9.2 9
SABR 0 0


Thoughts on the Match

Fed Tiafoe US open 2017

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 ๐Ÿ˜€

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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 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?


Huge fan of Roger Federer. I watch all his matches from Grand Slam level right down to ATP 250. When I'm not watching or writing about tennis I play regularly myself and have a keen interest in tactics, equipment and technicalties of the sport.

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  1. Very unpredictable match, just when you thought Fed would get it done, he would let the guy in. But, a win is a win and I guess the mental block wrt the back will be gone now after being stretched around quite a bit. Glad he said he was feeling ‘wonderful’ physically in the on-court interview. Allez! #20GER

    1. Lip service I think really to the interviewer that comment ๐Ÿ™‚ almost sounded sarcastic.

      See how he goes vs Youzhny, should be able to play front foot tennis all the way in that one.

  2. I was watching but had no idea how he lost the 4th. Made myself a sandwich after set 3 and the set was gone not long after I finished eating it. What an escape! I thought this match wouldn’t be straight forward but really didn’t expect a 5 setter. Really glad he came through and he sounded positive in the interview

  3. For a moment, I got really scared in the fifth. When Roger couldn’t serve it out and got broken I was really afraid the momentum had gone Tiafoe’s way and he’ll take the match. Fortunately Roger dug deep and found the strength to stay in the match and played on Tiafoe’s nerves and lack of experience.

  4. This is soooo bad for my (mental) health… I just want easy wins with no service breaks…
    I thought he moved very well in set 2 and 3, so I don’t think his back is much of a problem anymore.

  5. Thanks Jonathan for your quick and good sum-up. I was slightly surprised this morning with the score line when I checked it the first thing after waking up. Having just looked at the 15 minute highlight of the match, I could take what he said at the after match interview. Roger moved reasonably well and served reasonably well, though 1st serve % was low. Some credit ought to go to Tiafoe, who just smashed every ball put in front of him. Indeed he made a quite a few of them. Let’s hope that the caution Roger had taken was a right step forward. The next one up ought to be easier.
    Allez Rog!

  6. Frances Tiafoe
    A teen-aged foe
    Took it to Fed headlong
    But Fed was a wee bit too strong

    Fed the GOAT
    Played nothing much of note
    But just managed to hold his nerve
    Even at the end when he lost his serve

    Thankfully could not see from 5-2 onwards in the final set. Would have lost it at 5-4.

  7. You know I actually think this matchwas perfect for him for a number of different reasons, any injury aside.

    1) He got match time on the court – something that he sorely needed. It wasn’t a breeze. He’s come through the fire in this one. Thats only going to give him more confidence, not just in the game, but also in his body – definitely needs that.

    2) Wasn’t a physical match, so I wouldn’t worry about the 5 setter drain.

    3) If he doesnt have too many lingering effects of the back injury, he’d need to play himself into form. If he’s still carrying the injury, he’s not winning 7 5-setters in a row in any case.

    1. Yeah I don’t think going 5 was the worst thing. Would have been if it was a 4 hour match but this was rollercoaster style. See how he moves tonight…

    2. Agree. This match has made Roger to forget the inury (both in the brain and mind). Now he knows, he can unleash each match so much he needs. First threat for him could be now Thiem (- f coming so deep and being on fire. In such a state Thiem is Shapovalov plus lots of experience. Don’t see Roger controlling the game if the bombs from another side will hit the court. Dominic’s game is maybe not that fast as Denis’, but the power of shots is huge, not allowing the opponent to play something really dangerous – must hang on and wait for Thiem’s error. Next (and last real challenge would be Denis (if reaching F). I’m quite sure, Roger can play now everything he has. But will his tank still be full in SF/F?

    3. I had a feeling that Fed didnt go for it as he slipped to 1-4 in the fourth. Looked like he ensured that the tank is not empty in the fifth. A tough fourth set could be fatal. Good tactic against a teen like tiefoe… not sure about his back though. Youzhny is not a test…. next round is highly important.

  8. Heart attack moment, overall Roger wasn’t as sharp, playing with 2 minds. Maybe he was worried about his back and also trying to get used to new AA indoor condition. Thankfully it wasn’t a taxing match, hope he will get better with each round.

    1. Any news about his back? Roger was serving well below his usual level so I guess the back (or lack of proper game-playing preparation in previous weeks) must have something to do. Do we know what’s the real issue with his back?

    2. He said it’s fine in press but who knows. Never talks about them unti after the event and the dust has settled.

      Serve speeds looked ok, but % a bit down.

      1. Agree. But was this not all he needed? It would be of course nice to see him winning 6:2, 6:3 6:1 , but he needed a sharp practice under fire and pressure. Does not mean of course, Roger scheduled the match befpre to be 5-setter ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I expect it to be his last 5-setter in USO.

  9. First match after injury never goes easy. As I wrote before the match, there is physiological “injury mark” in the brain and this cannot be removed consciously. As a rule this happens during a match, when the player simply must go for all and makes once or more the move,ment which he consciously would avoid. This movement erases the injury mark from the brain and the player starts to be confident.
    You will see this in upcoming matches (if no new bad things happen).

      1. Is it a scientific fact that injuries can create physiological scars in the brain as well as psychological scars in the mind? It sounds doubtful to me, but I’m not a man of science. The idea that a player will unconsciously and involuntarily seek to protect his former injury makes sense, but that would be psychological as Jonathan points out.

        Interested to know if anyone can add any insights to this question.

      2. There is, definitely. It’s called muscle memory. It remembers the right gestures to ride a bicycle, to swim, etc, because you learned those gestures by repeating them over and over again until they are engraved for life.
        Similarly, if a gesture produces pain because some transient condition, like an inflammatory state, a broken bone, etc, the autonomous nervous system will remember the outcome and avoid it. But because this happens for a short time (hopefully), the information can be more easily erased. To do that, you must *consciously* execute the gesture a few times until the body re-learns that it’s OK to do it. The problem is that conscious gestures take longer to plan and execute, so it might lead to slower strokes, loss of points and eventually a full 5 set match to delete the pain data.
        But if the physical cause of pain returns a few months later, the pain information will be written again, deeper than before, making it more difficult to delete, the cycles will repeat, each one longer than the previous, and you’d rather hang up the racquet and call it a career.

  10. Thank you John for your post, every body is saying the court is slow, but it seems to me is all the contrary, it looks very fast to me, could you explain me why you think is slow, thank you for the input on this as I would like to know and learn from you.

    1. I am going by what the players are saying… Cilic, Federer and others have said it is slow. Brad Gilbert same. They’re rarely wrong. We all think Toronto slow from TV – Fed said it’s fast, the CPI from hawkeye proved it was quick.

      I’ve stopped going by what you see on TV, don’t get the perspective in 2D.

      1. Thank you John, I guess that as you said, we have to go by what the players say and the TV can trick the eye for sure, let’s hope Roger comes in better mood today and beats Youzny comfortably

  11. Something is off with his body. A clear indicator is his serve, didn’t seem as smooth as usual, and he was not bending his knees as much as he normally does. I guess we learned that even a sub-par Federer can win 1st round matches with relative ease.

  12. A roller-coaster of a match to the end. I enjoyed it though RF was not himself all the time he did sparkled and eventually made it brilliantly to match point. First matches are always difficult for RF, he usually gets into the tournament match by match. Tiafoe performance was quite outstanding. Lets hope that the shadow of the back injury clears away soon.

  13. I actually thought about going to bed after the first set however im so glad I didn. Sure he looked like the back hindered him in the first set but then the rust started to fall off and we saw him pick himself up and get on with it. I think we all tend to forget the guy on the other side of the net, roger was careless at times but his opponent was a handful. So he cant always win beautifully all the time he just looks good! Nick K has just lost

    1. Yes Tiafoe has a pretty big game, certainly hit some huge forehands. But I think Fed’s level / cautiousness had more to do with that rather than Tiafoe being the one stopping him doing what he wanted.

    2. I don’t think the back is a problem honestly, he served what? More than 19 aces? It was just and adaptation process to the surface and a cautious mentally back issue as he said in the after match press conference, and a good performance from the American,

  14. I thought Tiafoe played very well.
    Now Roger has had some match practice maybe he will pick up in the second round. I watched his practice which seemed pretty low key with lots of sitting down and chatting and I’ve no problem with that, whatever Fed does is good enough for me and usually for him.
    I was about when the match started but had a bad feeling about it and didn’t watch (don’t kill me, Jonathan, I was trying to avoid a heart attack which would have been a certainty if I had watched it live for five sets). Bad enough reading the score when I woke up.
    So, fingers crossed for the next round. About his back, no idea, but I think he is taking it easy for now just in case.

    1. Started at 3am for me ๐Ÿ™ finished at 6am. Ouch so don’t blame you ๐Ÿ˜€

      Tiafoe played pretty good ye, bit wild but hit some big shots. Fed allowed him a lot of plays though.

      1. Top marks, Jonathan, for staying the course. It seems like he is on this evening (UK evening) so here’s hoping it all goes smoothly and we don’t die several deaths.

    1. Great news! I mean…if Federer makes it that far.
      By the way, what’s the latest on the back?

    1. Zverev out too, had a feeling he would flop tbh when I put he never beaten someone in the top 50 in a slam but not this early. Kyrgios never making 4th Round either.

  15. Crazy draw, all the main guys are in the same half, meaning there’s pretty much noweone in the other! Time will tell how it pans out, but it seems a little unfortunate for the sake of the tournament. Maybe Shapovalov or Pouille will light up NYC and blitz their way to the final, that would be a great story. On paper though, you’d have to say Cilic is the biggest name left in the entire bottom half, now that Zverev’s bit the dust. Way too early to say of course, but the quarters and semis (in top half) might be immense, with the final anticlimactic…

  16. Things are progressing better after each night ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ . I feel that the only thing that Roger has to beat to take the title is his back. The USO will loathe the mess Andy caused – without the top two seeds after just two rounds ๐Ÿ™‚ .

    1. Alb, hate to disagree but had the opposite side been Cilic, Tiafoe would have won. What Cilic showed at Wimbledon final this year indicates that he would be one of those ‘one slam wonders’; lightning does not strike twice! I remember how much had been written after Del Porto beat Roger at the 09 USO; none of them turned out to be true. I thought that the way that Cilic reacted in the final showed that he knew that was perhaps the only other chance for him to compete at GS final. Cilic, as the only top 8 seed of the bottom half, could certainly reach final (he will never get the better chance than this) but I fancy Roger’s chances, even with a doggy back ๐Ÿ™‚ .

      1. Delpo’s lack of success after his USO win has nothing to do with him not being good enough. He’d probably be a multi-time major winner ala Stan if not for his injuriesin 2010 and 2013.

    1. Why poor? He knows, he would lose (not only to Roger), but this time at least to the greatest, bot playing very classic and classy ntennis and both SHBH, so nice to watchg, but never the same level. Youghny will be happy to lose after some entertaining match. I don’t experct 3 bagels ๐Ÿ˜‰

  17. I’m sorry, this is a moronic display from Roger. Serving for the set against Youzhny and then donating four gruesome errors off neutral balls? And then letting him tee off during the tiebreak? Roger’s brain has gone soft. You can’t let a hack like Youzhny into the crapshoot that is a tiebreak. Stupid. No way he will last deep even if he wins now.

    1. Clueless. Fed looking hampered not moving well, very upright on his shots, less pop on the ball. And Youzhny is more than good enough to take advantage.

    1. Moving relatively well! Quick to most balls, not many squash shots. But he is giving away points like it was going out of style. Shanking balls 30 feet into the air from midcourt. Missing overheads. Coming to net on nonsense. Every shot he hits is wrong. And he is incredibly impatient. It was absolutely huge to give the second set to Youzhny after serving for it. The psychological initiative completely shifted, whereas if Roger won the second, even in the tiebreak, Youzhny would’ve folded quickly. Now it’s a battle and Fed can only compete, not play.

      1. Relatively well! Well enough to crush the first set 6-1. I don’t see a huge difference across sets in his mobility. He’s hitting diving and stop volleys left and right. He can’t hit neutral or winner balls.

  18. It’s over. Fed forgot how to play, which is remarkable, considering Youzhny is playing the same way that caused him to lose the first set 6-1. Roger can’t hit easy winners to save his life. He also can’t seem to make a good decision. The year has been amazing, but he is garbage at the USO now.

    1. Yeah – never seen before Fed playing without any concept. But I don’t agree about Youzhny’s game. In second and third he is playing outstanding. Very deep shots, Riger should step back a bit because his half-volleys are too late and leading to lots of errors. Maybe he can regroup in next set. I don’t see this as a result of the back issue, rather unexpected superb game of Youzhny, who is reading the game better and moving better and playing with concept, plus catched momentum and riding on the wave. Roger must resurge or he will lose I fear.

      1. Horrendous. And the way he lost that second set! If Youzhny really stepped it up, great, but Roger netted three balls and shanked a fourth. Got too casual. Once the initiative changed hands, Youzhny started playing with more energy, but again, Roger’s level was so high in set 1, it shouldn’t matter. Youzhny can never play as well. Hey, nobody beats Youzhny 17 times a in a row, I guess.

  19. For sure something is very wrong. That explains your telling of his impatience and wrong decisions. So instead of poor Youzny, he’s having the luck of his life. And never call Roger garbage, please, we don’t know what’s the matter.

    1. His draw is so soft, it would be such a shame! Forget about Nadal or winning, just going deep. This 2nd round exit would really sting.

    1. His decisions are grotesque! That drop shot up 30-15 and serving at 5-3? The next point where he dumps an easy forehand 10 feet out? Predictably serve volleying on a second at break point? It makes one sick.

  20. I’m sorry everyone, but this match is bullshit. Roger should be embarrassed. Twice in one match, serving for set, and broken? Even against Djokovic, it’s never happened. And Youzhny may even be hobbled! This is disgraceful.

    1. He is obviously not himself so go jump off a bridge. And don’t watch if you’re not a fan and think he should be embarrassed.

      1. Think about why Roger in your opinion plays “disgraceful”. I’m sure he has enormous pain, but fights on bravely, in spite of all.

  21. Would anyone care to tell me what’s up with our man’s return game? Our grandmas could serve faster than Youhzny and all I can see are slice returns dumped into the net.

  22. Was this not simple? Fed stepped back in last 2 sets to avoid getting balls under his feet and lowered his UE”s, leading tomore UE’s from Youzhny. That’s thze story. Youzhny played one of best matches in his career and Roger get lost fpr 2 sets. Then stepped back half a meter and this was the solution. Good, old, wise Fed and good, old wise Mikhail ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Youzhny played well but Federer is definitely hampered with his back problems,difficulty with rotation. I think thats why his backhand is so bad, so saying that he played gatbage is really so much rubbish ….sorry for the pun…but Fed won and that is all we can ask. And just wish him well for his next match.

  24. Guys, excuse me but WTF is going with Roger and also with pretty much every seeded player at this US Open?!?!

    Roger struggling mightily to barely win in 5 twice in a row. I see Nadal currently struggling after like ding the 1st set. Zverev out. Dimitrov out.

    What the Hell is going on here?!

    Please someone explain. The courts are playing very fast and yet Roger is struggling with his form.

    He’s choking leading 4:2 in the second today. Choked serving out the match in the 5th the other day and got lucky. Choked again serving for the 4th again and got lucky..

    I can’t believe what I am seeing… Seriously guys. This US Open is absolutely nuts and I can’t wrap my head around it.

  25. I would be absolutely shocked if Roger beats Feliciano playing like that. He either needs to snap out of whatever nonsense he is in right now or just quit. I mean – what is going on?! Is he injured? Is he not injured? Going up and down:

    1 second he’s up a break and a set and a cruising. Blink a second and he’s dumped serve, lost the set and down a break.. YOU’VE GOT to be KIDDING me.

    But it’s not just him. Nadal is down a set and a break at this very second. Dimitrov lost today after winning Cincy. Zverev is out after winning Montreal.

    Something is a rye. The conditions must be different because they seem to be helping the lower ranked players more than the higher ranked ones. I thought it’s just Roger that’s struggling but it’s pretty much every one.

    Roger was the odds-on favorite prior to the tournament. After his disgraceful display today, he got bumped to 2nd place. Now, if Nadal loses tonight, he’ll bumped back up to 1st but that will only last a couple of days unless he picks up his game. It’s as if all of these top seeds are getting picked off at will. And they are not playing that horribly. It’s just that the opposition is playing lights out with no regards or respect and just playing crazy ball right now.

    But is driving me nuts right now is all that Up and Down roller coaster. Roger has WON Grand Slams with hampered backs before. It’s not an ideal situation but he needs an easy win desperately.

    And it’s not looking any easier with Lopez coming up. Not with the poor form that Roger is in. And don’t get blinded by a quick start either. We’ve seen that already two matches in a row and they all went 5. Anyway.

    Nadal just broke back. So perhaps order will be restored.

    1. Few things:

      He didn’t have a great start vs Tiafoe. It was bad.

      He hasn’t won a major by actually having a bad back when he won. Wimbledon 03 vs Lopez and Wimbledon 12 vs Malisse, but he was fully fit the rest of those tournaments. I think he’s not 100% physically but not injured, if that makes sense. He’s definitely not sharp – compare the way he was hitting in practice in Indian Wells and the way he hit in practice last week – it’s like night and day. Hopefully he’ll regain some confidence vs Lopez – and I’d still rather him play an opponent he knows rather than one he doesn’t when he’s struggling.

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