Swiss pushed to five sets
Roger Federer was pushed to five sets in the opening round of the US Open for the first time in 17 years before the Swiss third seed overcame American Frances Tiafoe 4-6 6-2 6-1 1-6 6-4, while Japanese teen Naomi Osaka stunned women’s champion Angelique Kerber 6-3 6-1 on a rain-hit Tuesday.
After his great rival and potential semi-final opponent Rafael Nadal had cruised into the second round with a 7-6(6) 6-2 6-2 win over Serbian Dusan Lajovic at Flushing Meadows, Federer was expected to advance with similar ease.
However, backed by a raucous home crowd that got louder under the roof at the Arthur Ashe stadium, teenager Tiafoe had other ideas and came close to producing one of the biggest upsets of the event.
Tiafoe took the first set in which Federer committed 18 unforced errors. The 19-times Grand Slam winner switched gears to take the next two, easing fears that the back injury that forced him out in Cincinnati two weeks ago was not acting up.
The American teen, who has lost the pair’s only previous meeting in Miami this year, was not done just yet and sprung to life to level the match at two sets apiece.
Federer, who turned 36 this month, was broken while serving for the match at 5-3, but relied on his experience to close out the contest in two hours and 37 minutes.
“This is why I come back to New York, to experience these emotions,” Federer said after the match.
It’s worth notice that Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl have played in the most singles finals at the US Open in the professional era with eight apiece.
Federer has an opportunity to join them this year.
Another interesting statistic for Federer fans is that the Swiss maestro did not lose a set when he claimed his 19th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon this year but he has already dropped two in his opening round win over Tiafoe.
Federer, who is returning from a back injury, made a total of 56 unforced errors in the match.
Meanwhile, only nine matches were completed on the second day as heavy rain lashed the venue, forcing the organisers to postpone the remaining ties to yesterday.
With a defeat to the hard-hitting Osaka, Kerber became the second defending women’s champion to lose in the first round after Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2005.
The German has not won a title this year and has struggled in the majors.
Last year’s finalist and top seed Karolina Pliskova had no such trouble against Poland’s Magda Linette, scoring a 6-2 6-1 win, while Madison Keys trumped Belgian Elise Mertens 6-3 7-6(6).