Tennis

Roger Federer overcomes scare from qualifier in US Open first round

But early US Open struggles no concern for Swiss maestro

Roger Federer suggested his sluggish display in yesterday morning's (Singapore time) first-round win over Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal at the US Open was "not a bad thing".

The Swiss third seed, a five-time champion in New York, produced 19 unforced errors to surprisingly drop the first set against a player ranked 190th and without a tour-level win.

The 38-year-old recovered to progress 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 and clinch his 1,224th career victory that set up a meeting with Bosnia's Damir Dzumhur. The win also ensured that he has qualified for a record-extending 17th ATP Tour Finals appearance.

"Maybe it's not a bad thing to go through a match like this. It was very similar at Wimbledon when I dropped the first set there, as well, in the first round," said Federer, who lost a five-set epic to Novak Djokovic in last month's final at the All England Club.

"At the end, you look at the last three sets and they were good. That's encouraging."

A dismal first set served as a wake-up call for Federer, who is now 62-0 in Grand Slam first rounds dating back to the 2003 French Open.

"I broke every time first game each set. That was good," he said.

"Trying to forget the first set is never sort of easy I guess in a first round, under the lights.

"People expect a different result. I expect something else.

"I just wanted to pick up my game really, start to play better. I was able to do that.

"That was a relief, going up 3-0 in the second set, realising that it is in my racket, how I also felt it in the first set.

"The thing is I wasn't serving consistently enough. I was hitting double-faults that usually I don't do.

"Also, I was just hitting too many unforced errors. I was in two minds, I guess."

Meanwhile, Djokovic was feeling right at home on the Arthur Ashe Stadium hard-court yesterday, which may be bad news for anyone hoping to deny the defending champion from adding to his 16 Grand Slams.

The top-seeded Serb said the surface of the blue court during his 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 first-round win over Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena was very similar to last year when he picked up his third US Open title.

"I didn't notice any significant difference. It is cooler in terms of weather than it was last year," said Djokovic, who has won four of the last five Grand Slam titles.

"I really like the conditions of the balls, the speed of the court, the weather is fantastic. You know, it's just very enjoyable."

The 32-year-old had never before faced Carballes Baena and spent the opening set figuring out his opponent before cruising home and into the second round where he will face another first-time opponent in Argentinian Juan Ignacio Londero.

NOT COMPLACENT

Djokovic, who has reached at least the semi-finals in every US Open he has competed in since 2006, will obviously be a favourite in his next match, but is not taking anything for granted.

"I have people, analysts in my team who are responsible for providing data, information, and video and data analysis on every next opponent that I play against," he said.

"I have to do my homework. It's something that is so logical and so normal. You know, it's part of, in a way, my job as well to get myself ready for what's coming up."

Djokovic's projected opponent en route to the final, the in-form Russian fifth seed Daniil Medvedev, also progressed to the next round after he dispatched India's Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-4, 6-1, 6-2.

He will next meet Bolivian outsider Hugo Dellien. -AFP, REUTERS

Tennis