FEDERER SURVIVES TEEN
Roger Federer overcomes slow start and late lapse to edge teenager at Open
Roger Federer already has dropped two more sets at the U.S. Open than he did during his entire two weeks en route to the title at Wimbledon.
Worried about a recent back problem that kept him from getting ready the way he usually does for a Grand Slam tournament, Federer had to overcome an early deficit and a late lapse Tuesday night to edge 19-year-old American Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 in a compelling firstround contest under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof.
"I didn't have the preparation I was hoping to get," Federer said. "I always knew I was going to come in feeling rusty or not great."
The No. 3-seeded Federer, whose most recent of five championships at Flushing Meadows came in 2008, got broken in the first game and dropped the opening set of the topsy-turvy match. He then appeared to take control by grabbing eight of nine games to seize the second and third sets. But he let that lead slip away. There was more trouble when Federer served for the match leading 5-3 in the fifth and got broken.
"I was quite up and down," Federer said, acknowledging that he was cautious with his footwork and had some trouble seeing the ball properly.
Tiafoe's take: "He won by the skin of his teeth."
Federer's initial match point came at 5-3, 40-30, but Tiafoe staved that off, then broke. He produced a cross-court forehand winner at an unbelievable angle to earn the chance, before converting it with a terrific forehand passing winner down the line. Tiafoe roared and pumped a fist and sprinted to the sideline for the changeover.
When he had to come back out and serve, Tiafoe was a bit flat. Federer wasted his second match point with a netted backhand. On the third — with Federer's wife, Mirka, covering her eyes in the stands — Tiafoe hit a stumbling forehand into the net.
"In these best-of-five-set matches," Federer said, "you have a lot of lives sometimes."
It was Federer's 79th career victory at the U.S. Open, equaling Andre Agassi for second-most. Only Jimmy Connors has more, with 98.
Federer played with the roof shut at Ashe for the first time. He missed last year's tournament, when the retractable cover made its debut, because he took off the second half of 2016 to let his surgically repaired left knee and a bad back fully heal.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST. Roger Federer was dealing with a back problem that slowed him down in his first match at the US Open against a teenager. However, experience prevailed and he overcame a bad back and a gritty teen to advance to the next round.