Federer survives scare
AMERICAN TEEN TIAFOE PUSHES SWISS LEGEND TO FIVE SETS IN US OPEN FIRST-ROUND SURPRISE
World No. 3 Roger Federer survived a first-round scare from Frances Tiafoe as the Swiss legend ground out a 4-6 6-2 6-1 1-6 6-4 victory against the American teenager before a raucous crowd at the US Open yesterday.
Federer looked more relieved than overjoyed when Tiafoe’s forehand found the net on match point to keep his hopes of a 20th grand slam title alive.
Tiafoe, 19, broke Federer in the first game of the match and bellowed out a loud ‘‘Come on!’’ when his forehand winner found the line to capture the opening set.
Federer, who has won this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon since taking a six-month break last year, soon found his groove once he broke Tiafoe to take a 3-1 lead in the second set and reeled off nine of the next 10 games.
However, his poor form returned in a 23-minute fourth set when his serve and the accuracy of his trusty one-handed backhand completely deserted him.
Despite coming away with the win, the shaky performance raises questions about the health of Federer, who sat out the Cincinnati Masters this month with back pain.
‘‘It was a good one. I think we both enjoyed ourselves out here. I’m very happy with the match. It was exciting and it’s kind of why I came to New York, to go through these emotions,’’ Federer, 36, said.
‘‘I had a bit of a slow start, but Frances also felt good. I was maybe a bit worried about my back issue, but was eventually able to let go. In the fifth it’s a coin toss and it went my way tonight.’’
Meanwhile, Federer’s archrival, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal defeated Dusan Lajovic to ease into the second round, setting the Spaniard on a collision course for a long overdue Flushing Meadows showdown with Federer.
Nadal overcame a slow start to win 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 6-2.
‘‘At the end of the first set, it was important to get the break back,’’ Nadal, 31, said.
‘‘After that, everything changed, I’m very happy.
‘‘I need to keep improving, the first round is never easy. You want to do well from the beginning. I want to focus on trying to do my work well.’’
While the year’s final grand slam has just started, tennis fans have circled September 8 when, if all goes to form, Nadal and Federer would meet to decide a place in the final.
One of the great rivalries in sport, Federer, a five-times US Open winner, and Nadal, twice champion, have clashed 37 times over the years, but never have they stood across the net on Flushing Meadows’ hardcourts.
You gave me a fright: Swiss legend Roger Federer (right) shakes hands with American teenager Frances Tiafoe after surviving a five-set thriller in opening round of the US Open at Flushing Meadows yesterday.