It was rush hour in Queens and Roger Federer was directing the traffic.
Luring Yoshihito Nishioka forward chasing a mischievious drop shot, Federer flicked a forehand pass that left his opponent waving his arms in futility like a man trying to flag down the No. 7 train as the subway doors slammed shut.
US Open: Djokovic Survives Scalding Heat, Fucsovics
Federer spent much of his US Open return stretching his 5’7″ opponent and extending his lead soaring through a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 triumph in his 18th Flushing Meadows appearance.
Stepping into the court and striking with ambition, Federer fired 56 winners in a one hour, 52-minute dissection.
“Thankfully I wasn’t too nervous tonight. I felt good,” Federer said. “I felt like I had a good preparation week. No hiccups there. I think that settles my nerves there.
“When you do walk out onto Arthur Ashe, you feel like people are there to see the show, enjoy themselves. Sure, they come for the tennis, but it’s also sort of a bucket list, wanting to be there. So, yeah, there’s pressure… I love coming to play here. It’s been so many years now. So it’s great to have played also a good first round against an entertaining first-round opponent. I’m very pleased to be back in New York, of course.”
Launching his quest for an Open Era record sixth US Open title, Federer raised his 2018 record to 34-5, including a 22-3 mark on hard courts.
The victory vaults Federer into a second-round clash with Benoit Paire.
The flamboyant Frenchman defeated Austrian Dennis Novak, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5), on the strength of seven service breaks.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has swept all six meetings with the 56th-ranked Paire, who held a match point in their last meeting before Federer prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7) on the grass of Halle in June.
Streaking forward from the start of the match, Federer won 31 of 45 trips to net and persistently pushed the Japanese well behind the baseline to set up the drop shot.
Federer broke twice in the first five games of the match. When Nishioka nudged a forehand volley into net, Federer had the second break and a 4-1 lead.
A flying smash brought him to set point as Federer wrapped the opening set in 31 minutes.
Nishioka wasn’t gaining traction in baseline rallies and Federer was ruthless converting eight of nine break-point chances.
On his fourth set point, Fed serve and volley wristed forehand drop volley winner to snatch the 35-minute second set hitting 21 more winners (24 to 3) than his opponent.
“At the end of the day the aura, it doesn’t win you the match every time,” Federer said. “You have to go out there, you have to work hard. I just finally stopped sweating. I also put in a lot of effort. You have to bring it every single time. I say you’re only as good as your next match. I try to live by that mantra a little bit.
“Then again today I didn’t know how really good Nishioka was. I wanted to play well at the beginning of each set. I was able to break the beginning of each set, cruise after that. I was very happy.”
The Swiss in the cranberry-colored clothes broke to start the third set and rapidly stretched the lead.
The only real mis-step came when Federer first tried closing the match.
Serving for the second round at 5-2, Federer fought off a break point with a 114 mph ace down the middle then saved another break point with a serve-and-volley play.
Sailing a forehand beyond the baseline, Federer surrendered serve.
It was a brief reprieve for the world No. 177.
Federer finished off the job in his next service game.