Roger Federer made the type of personal history he’d rather avoid at this US Open.
For the first time in his Grand Slam career, the 36-year-old Swiss has opened a major playing successive five-set matches.
Federer dropped his first hard-court set to Mikhail Youzhny in 17 years before rallying for a scratchy five-set victory today.
The five-time US Open champion isn’t pressing the panic button and believes his form will only improve as the tournament progresses. Federer, who raised his career record against Youzhny to 17-0, has won all 12 meetings against third-round opponent Feliciano Lopez, including a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-4, triumph at the US Open 10 years ago.
“It is what it is,” Federer said. “I’m pretty confident that I’m only going to get better from here. That’s a good thing. Because I’ve played a lot, I definitely found some rhythm now, even though it’s going to be a different serve coming my way, lefty. But I know Feliciano (Lopez) also really well, like I know Mikhail really well. I think that plays in my favor a little bit.
“So, yeah, good thing was that I started well today after not doing that at all in the first round. So I think that to me is also encouraging. I just got to iron out those little ups and downs that I’m having a little bit so it’s not too extreme, think I think I’m going to play better.”
The second-seeded Swiss surprised New Yorkers showing up for practice in Central Park yesterday. Federer, who rarely practices on public park courts, said the park experience was a refreshing departure from his standard training routine.
“Sometimes I think having a fun practice session, being in a totally different surrounding like yesterday, where all 20 courts just stopped playing, came to watch you play. I don’t know. It was kind of really different, you know,” Federer said. “People were just happy to see you there, meet you, talk to you, maybe get a photo. They didn’t care about autographs.
“I don’t know, it was a different crowd. I really enjoyed that. Just to be in that environment for a change. I’ve seen the routine of normal practice sessions and matches, press, all the things we do in a row, it’s always the same. I think this was very refreshing. I hope I can do these things a bit more often.”