NEW YORK, August 29, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Twenty-time major champion Roger Federer likes playing in the U.S. Open. It seems to bring out the best in his game and his personality. Over the years, Arthur Ashe Stadium has become a comfortable home for him. He’s won five U.S. Open titles (2004-08), and with his 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win over 177th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan on Tuesday night, the Swiss maestro remains undefeated (18-0) in first round U.S. Open matches. His 35th night match win not only delighted his legion of admirers, both inside Ashe and around the world, it also tied him with Serena Williams for most all-time night match wins at the U.S. Open.
“I like playing here,” said the No. 2 seed Federer during a playful interview he shared with ESPN’s Chris McKendry and John McEnroe that was broadcast on ESPN’s outdoor studio adjacent to Arthur Ashe Stadium after his victory. “I think the court speed is good for me. I like New York.”
At age 37, Federer is seeking to become the oldest man to win the U.S. Open in the Open Era. If he is successful – and many seem to like his chances since he won a hard court major earlier this year at the Australian Open – it would be his 21st Grand Slam championship and his 99th career title.
Against the 22-year-old Nishioka, Federer came out sporting a brand new all-red Uniqlo kit – and his designer Nike footwear even matched the color of his outfit. Among the guests sitting in Federer’s box along with his wife, parents and coaching team were Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, and actor Hugh Jackman, both who applauded Federer’s every service ace and winner – and there were many of both. Federer finished the 1 hour and 52 minute match with 14 service aces and his 56 winners more than offset the 32 unforced errors he committed. He put on a good show for the fans to enjoy and remember – and he dressed the part, too.
“This is the most social Grand Slam for me. I have so many friends in town, so many restaurants I want to go visit, and so many things I want to go do – but so little time,” said Federer. “At the end, you remind yourself that you are here for the tennis. It’s so exciting playing on Arthur Ashe. Here in New York, it’s such a buzz. I’ve always loved it – and I still do. I hope it never goes away.”
Federer will have Wednesday to spend with his family and friends – maybe even get in a practice hit – then it’s back on court Thursday for his second round match against 56th-ranked Benoit Paire of France, who advanced over Dennis Novak of Austria, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5).
Lendl Era begins for Zverev
In his first match under new coach and Hall of Famer Ivan Lendl, No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev started his 2018 U.S. Open campaign on a successful note as he advanced with an easy 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 win over Peter Polansky of Canada, who gained notoriety by reaching his fourth Grand Slam main draw – all as a lucky loser. During his 1 hour and 36 minutes spent on Louis Armstrong Stadium, the 21-year-old Zverev outpointed Polansky 86-53, which included winning 33 of 40 (83 percent) first-serve points and firing 10 service aces. He hit 37 winners and dropped just 16 points on his serve while breaking Polansky six times in 13 opportunities for his 44th win on tour this year.
“Our goal is to do the best I can on the court,” said Zverev during his post-match press conference. He said of Lendl: “His goal is to prepare myself the best I can. We’re working hard towards that. We’re working hard to being the best player I can be. We’re working hard to one day maybe winning these kind of tournaments. It’s no secret that’s why I took him. That’s the reason.”
Mixed results for Germans
Zverev was one of 10 Germans who saw action on Day 2 at the U.S. Open. Collectively, their results were mixed. On the men’s side, Yannick Maden lost to No. 17 seed Lucas Pouille of France, 7-6 (6), 6-2, 7-5; Philipp Kohlschreiber needed three hours and 22 minutes but advanced over fellow countryman Yannick Hanfmann, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-4, 6-4; Jan-Lenard Struff beat Tim Smyczek of the United States, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-3; and Maximilian Marterer fell disappointedly to No. 21 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. After advancing to the third round of the Australian Open and the fourth round of Roland Garros, Marterer was unable to overcome Nishikori’s 25 winners or his 49 percent success rate on points won on Marterer’s serve.
On the women’s side, No. 4 seed Angelique Kerber won over Margarita Gasparyan of Russia, 7-6 (5), 6-3; Andrea Petkovic lost to No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5; Laura Siegemund was defeated by No. 20 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan, 6-3, 6-2; and Mona Barthel fell to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, 6-1, 6-4.
• Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic showed much fighting spirit during the afternoon session on Arthur Ashe Stadium, practically passing out from the heat. He was down 4-3 in the third set, but managed to fight off Marton Fucsovics of Hungary and won in four sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. Because of the extended break after the third set, the No. 6 seed Djokovic escaped the heat and had time for a refreshing ice bath. “We were naked in the ice baths, it was quite a wonderful feeling,” he said during an on-court interview following his victory.
• American Frances Tiafoe earned his first U.S. Open career win with a hard-fought 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory over No. 29 seed Adrian Mannarino of France that began during the afternoon heatwave and ended more than two-and-a-half hours later under the lights of the Grandstand. “I didn’t know how hard it is to win one,” said the 44th-ranked Tiafoe during an on-court interview after he won. Next, Tiafoe will face another #NextGenATP star in Australia’s Alex de Minaur, ranked 45th. De Minaur advanced over Taro Daniel of Japan by dropping just three games, 6-0, 6-1, 6-2.
• Madison Keys of the United States, a 2017 U.S. Open finalist, had the uneveniable task of playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium Tuesday night after Roger Federer got the crowd in the right mood. Although she needed six match points to close out Pauline Parmentier of France, 6-4, 6-4, her win advanced her into the second round of the U.S. Open for the fourth consecutive year.
• Nick Kyrgios remains a mercurial figure on the tennis court – but he’s always a fan favorite – which likely explains why the World No. 30 earned a spotlight on Louis Armstrong Stadium during the night session. While he unleashed 25 aces and hit 48 winners in advancing over Radu Albot of Moldova, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, the Aussie also committed 14 double faults and hit 55 unforced errors.
• No. 22 seed Maria Sharapova of Russia closed out the night session on Louis Armstrong Stadium just minutes before midnight by fighting off 39-year-old Patty Schnyder of Switzerland, ranked 186th, 6-2, 7-6 (6). Sharapova hit 22 winners and overcame nine double faults and 46 unforced errors during her 1 hour and 50 minute match.
• Other seeded winners include: Women – No. 6 Caroline Garcia of France over Jo Konta of Great Britain, 6-2, 6-2; and No. 11 Daria Kasatkina of Russia over Timea Babos of Hungary, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. Men – No. 7 Marin Cilic of Croatia over Marius Copil of Romania, by retirement, 7-5 6-1, 1-1; and No. 10 David Goffin of Belgium over Federico Gaio of Italy, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (5).
• There were six retirements during men’s singles action out of 32 matches on Tuesday as the New York City heat hovered above 90 degrees for a second straight day. Retiring from their matches were Marius Copil, Stefano Travaglia, Filip Krajinovic, Leonardo Mayer, Mikhail Youzhny and Ricardas Beranakis.