US Open Day 2 | Roger and Rafa make slow starts
The organisers will be more than grateful for the millions spent on providing the Arthur Ashe Stadium with a roof as torrential rain swept away 55 matches off the second day’s schedule which saw only 9 matches completed.
I had a slow start. I was worried about the back injury. In the fifth set, it was a coin toss and it went my way tonight so I am very happy. I am feeling extremely well. This will give me great confidence Roger Federer
It meant that the showpiece matches were able to continue and with both Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer on the day’s listings, the ticket holders at this year’s US Open’s main show court were not discomforted in any way!
The two of course are bidding to become world number one by the end of the fortnight, with Federer at the age of 36 chasing his third grand slam title of the year while the younger 31-year-old Nadal goes for his second.
It would have been surprising if either of these tennis mega-stars had not gone through to the second round en route to their scheduled semi-final meeting next week, but they did suffer some difficulties as they opened their challenges.
Federer, going for his sixth US Open title and 20th grand slam, was taken to five sets by the up-and-coming teenage American, Frances Tiafoe who nearly made him experience his first, first-round exit since the French Open in 2003.
Playing under the roof, the 19-year-old son of immigrants from Sierra Leone, kept the title favourite under pressure throughout the two-hour and 40-minutes of hectic play.
Federer eventually triumphed 4-6 6-2 6-1 1-6 6-4 but there were occasions when one could see he was struggling to defuse the powerful strokes generated by the youngster ranked 70, a key member of the ‘next gen’ group.
The Swiss maestro had declared himself fully fit having taken a week or so off to nurse a back injury he suffered when losing to Alexander Zverev in the Montreal Masters final, resulting in him skipping Cincinnati, but on this showing it would seem it might well be playing a part.
“It was more than a test. We enjoyed it out there, we kept fighting, trying and it was exciting,” said Federer, who finished with 17 aces, 41 winners and 56 unforced errors.
“I had a slow start. I was worried about the back injury. In the fifth set, it was a coin toss and it went my way tonight so I am very happy. I am feeling extremely well. This will give me great confidence.”
Earlier in the day, Nadal who regained the world number one spot for a fourth time in his career, was also given a good workout in his opening set against Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic who led a seemingly listless Spaniard by breaking him in the opening games.
But it didn’t take long for Nadal to regain his focus as he then broke back in the ninth game to go and force a tie-breaker,
There he looked to be running away with it only for Lajovic to battle back from 3-0 to 5-5. Nadal wasted his first set point but took it on his second with a trademark winner and from that point there was no doubt who would emerge the winner, which he did 7-6(6) 6-2 6-2.
“It was tough at the beginning,” Nadal admitted afterwards. “He was playing well, not making many mistakes. I felt that he was in control of the point too many times. At the end of that first set it was important to make the break back.”
He then added: “I just need to keep improving. The first round is never easy. You have nerves playing here in this amazing place.”
But he had some reservations about the ‘amazing place’, complaining that with the roof closed, it was too noisy.
“I understand it’s a show, but under the roof we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise. All the noise stays inside, and this is difficult,” he said.