Roger That: Federer Flies Through First Round At US Open
Ten years ago, Roger Federer completed a dominant reign at Flushing Meadows, lifting his fifth consecutive US Open trophy in 2008. And while he hasn’t entered the New York winners’ circle since, the Swiss showed on Tuesday evening that he could have another championship run in him a decade later.
Federer cruised by Japanese Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, remaining undefeated in opening-round matches at the year’s final Grand Slam (18-0). If the Swiss claims his sixth victory in New York, he will become the winningest and oldest US Open champion in the Open Era. It would also give him 99-tour-level titles in his career, only trailing Jimmy Connors, who owns 109.
"Thankfully I wasn't too nervous tonight. I felt good. I felt like I had a good preparation week. No hiccups there. I think that settles my nerves there," Federer said. "When you do walk out onto Arthur Ashe [Stadium], you feel like people are there to see the show, enjoy themselves. Sure, they come for the tennis, but it's also sort of a bucket list, wanting to be there... it's great to have played also a good first round against an entertaining first-round opponent."
Federer has not lost in the first round of a major since 2003 Roland Garros, a stretch of 58 Slam appearances. Fifty-three of those first-match victories have come in straight sets. He clinched the triumph when Nishioka hit a return long after one hour, 52 minutes.
The 37-year-old is fresh off an appearance in the Western & Southern Open final, where he fell just short of picking up his eighth trophy at the event, losing to Novak Djokovic. Federer has won three titles this year, earning his 20th Grand Slam championship at the Australian Open and prevailing in Rotterdam and Stuttgart.
Federer next faces Benoit Paire, against whom he has won all six of his FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. There will be intrigue, though, as Paire held two match points against Federer in Halle this year. The Frenchman beat Austrian Dennis Novak 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) in three hours and five minutes.
Nishioka put up a fight in Arthur Ashe Stadium, unleashing some late forehands down the line to the delight of the crowd, showing how he climbed as high as No. 58 in the ATP Rankings last year by earning his only break of the match as Federer served for the second round at the first time of asking. But Federer’s baseline-hugging play proved too much to handle, as the second seed hit 56 winners to just 32 unforced errors.
"I don't know how nervous he was going in. But I've been in tough matches against left-handed players over the years, like Rafa. I know what left-handed players can do," Federer said. "But at the end of the day the aura, it doesn't win you the match every time. You have to go out there, you have to work hard. I just finally stopped sweating. I also put in a lot of effort. You have to bring it every single time."
Also in the bottom section of the draw, reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung advanced to the second round while holding a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-0, 2-0 lead, as Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis retired due to heat illness. The South Korean, who is into the second round in New York for the third time in three appearances, will next face Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin, who ousted home favourite Noah Rubin 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6(3).
The first seeded play Chung could confront is 14th seed and recent Los Cabos champion Fabio Fognini, who rallied past #NextGenATP American Michael Mmoh 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(4). The Italian needed three hours and 13 minutes to prevail, firing 55 winners, including 10 aces.
The 31-year-old next clashes against John Millman, after the Aussie streaked past Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 6-2, 6-0. The 17-year-old American won the USTA Boys' under-18 national championship, earning a main draw wild card.
In the Louis Armstrong Stadium night session, the enigmatic Nick Kyrgios outlasted Radu Albot 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The 30th seed avoided a first-round exit like he suffered last year, launching 49 winners, including 25 aces, to advance on a warm Tuesday evening. The Aussie will next face Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, who prevailed in their lone previous FedEx ATP Head2Head encounter at Wimbledon last year. Herbert defeated Yuki Bhambri 6-3, 7-6(3), 7-5 on Tuesday evening.