Tennis

Federer confident of going far despite first-round scare

Roger Federer made a narrow escape in a tense five-set thriller yesterday morning (Singapore time), sorting out worries about a back injury and poor preparation to reach the second round of the US Open.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion outlasted 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 in a shockingly tough battle that boosted his hopes of a deep run on the New York hard courts.

"I think this is going to give me a lot of confidence," Federer said after beating the 70th-ranked American. "It's important to go through all of these emotional roller coasters early. That pressure is not fun, but it's what you have to go through."

The match was Federer's first since losing the Montreal final to Alexander Zverev nearly three weeks ago. He withdrew from Cincinnati with a sore back the following week.

"I was worried in the beginning from my back issue from a couple weeks ago, but I loosened up," Federer said, calling his back "extremely well" and adding, "It's only going to get better from here."

"To get through a five-set match, you've got to be healthy.

"I believe this is going to give me great confidence in my game and my body."

Third seed Federer will next meet either Russia's Mikhail Youzhny, who is 0-16 against him, or Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic, 0-1 against Federer, as the Swiss chases a record sixth US Open crown.

Meanwhile, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal dismissed Dusan Lajovic 7-6 (8/6), 6-2, 6-2 to ease into the second round yesterday morning, setting the Spaniard on course for a long overdue Flushing Meadows showdown with Federer. If all goes to form, Nadal and Federer would meet in the semi-finals on Sept 8.

That can wait. The 31-year-old Spaniard's immediate issue is with the rowdy New York crowd.

With torrential rain lashing down, the roof on the showpiece Arthur Ashe stadium was shut tight, creating a giant echo-chamber for the boisterous crowd of 24,000.

"Being honest, it (the noise) is a little bit too much," said Nadal. "The energy and support of the crowd is massive. I enjoy it and I have unforgettable memories from this tournament and this court, because the energy is different in other places.

"But, at the same time, under the roof, it's too much noise. I was not able to hear the ball when hitting.

"I understand it's a show but, under the roof, we need to be a little bit stricter about the noise.

"All the noise stays inside, and this is difficult." - WIRE SERVICES

US OPENRoger FedererANDY MURRAY