Federer escapes in 5-set US Open thriller as downpour brings chaos
NEW YORK — Roger Federer survived a five-set battle to defeat American teenager Frances Tiafoe and reach the US Open second round on Tuesday, keeping his bid for a record sixth New York title alive.
The 36-year-old Swiss, chasing his third major of the year and 20th of his career, prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 to avoid losing in the first round of a Slam for the first time since the 2003 French Open.
The fast and furious duel under the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium was one of only nine matches to be completed as torrential rain swept 55 matches off Tuesday’s schedule.
At times, Federer also looked as if he was about to disappear with the deluge, struggling with a back injury as well as the all-out assault of Tiafoe, the big-hearted 19-year-old son of immigrants from Sierra Leone.
But the veteran survived to register his 79th win in New York and set up a second round matchup with either Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny or Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia.
The back problem, which Federer suffered in losing the Montreal final to Alexander Zverev and ruled him out of the Cincinnati tournament, restricted his movement in the opening set.
In the decider, Federer broke for 3-1 but wasted a match point as he served at 5-3 and was broken by the American.
But Tiafoe’s nerve failed him in the 10th game and the match was over when he dumped an off-balance forehand into the net. The 31-year-old Spaniard was critical of the noise inside the Ashe stadium, which was amplified to distracting levels by the roof, which was closed for virtually the whole day.
With play on the outside courts trimmed to a mere 90 minutes, it means 87 singles matches will be staged on Wednesday.
Japan’s Naomi Osaka was one of just seven women to get through to the second round, aided by playing under the roof.
The world number 46, born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother, clinched a 6-3, 6-1 win over sixth seed Angelique Kerber, who became the first women’s defending champion to lose in the first round since Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2005. —