U.S. Open Day 3: Roger Federer rolls after another slow start, but Venus Williams can’t get it going
NEW YORK — Roger Federer’s not about to start trying new tricks now.
So even though he's lost the opening set in each of his first two U.S. Open matches for the first time in the 19 times he's entered the Grand Slam tournament, it's not as if the guy is going to seek some sort of magic solution. Working up more of a sweat in the gym before heading to the court, say. Or playing an extra practice set.
What he chose to focus on, instead, is looking on the bright side: "Can only do better," Federer said, "which is a great thing, moving forward."
At a Flushing Meadows flush with surprises so far — half of the top 12 seeded men already were gone by the time he stepped into Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday — Federer cleaned up his act quickly enough to come back and beat Damir Dzhumhur 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, reaching the third round on an afternoon when rain postponed all but nine scheduled singles matches and every doubles contest.
Indeed, Federer was one of the lucky ones who will stay on the usual play-one-day, get-a-day-off Grand Slam schedule. Only matches at Ashe or Louis Armstrong Stadium, the event's two arenas with a retractable roof, were held.
That included a loss by two-time champion Venus Williams to No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina, and victories for No. 3 Karolina Pliskova and 2017 runner-up Madison Keys on the women's side, and a win for No. 7 Kei Nishikori on the men's.
Federer probably will need to do better at the beginning of his upcoming matches to get that far in New York, where he won the last of his five titles in 2008.
"You go through a little phase where you don't start so well and everybody asks you right away, 'What are you going to do?' You're like, I don't know. Just go back to the drawing board. Just do the same things again. You hope for a better outcome," said Federer, owner of a total of 20 major trophies. "I don't think there is, per se, a secret to a good start, other than warming up well, being well-prepared mentally, not underestimating your opponent. I did all of that. You know me, I will always do that."
He also ceded the first set to 190th-ranked Sumit Nagal of an eventual four-set victory Monday.
Federer called that pattern "just a bit frustrating, more than anything, especially when the level is that low and there is that many errors and the energy is not kind of there."
Against Dzhumhur, who is ranked No. 99 now but has been as high as No. 23, Federer fell behind 4-0 after all of 15 minutes. He was sluggish and his shots were off-target, to the tune of 12 unforced errors within the match's first 19 points.
"Basically," Federer concluded, "the entire set, just sort of donated."
Hardly ideal, on this particular day or in the big picture: Never in the 107-year history of the tournament has a man gone on to claim the trophy after losing the first set in both of his first two matches.
Still, what matters right now, of course, is that Federer is still in the draw.
Borna Coric, who was seeded 12th, was the latest to exit, withdrawing because of a lower back strain before he was supposed to face Grigor Dimitrov on Wednesday. That followed losses Tuesday by a quartet of top-10 men all on Rafael Nadal's half of the bracket: No. 4 Dominic Thiem, No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 9 Karen Khachanov and No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut.
She was in trouble, if only briefly, against 17-year-old American Caty McNally, who is friends, and doubles partners, with Coco Gauff.
Making key adjustments to her serve and straightening out her other strokes, Williams avoided what would have been her earliest loss in 19 appearances at the U.S. Open, coming back to beat McNally 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 in a match that ended as Wednesday turned to Thursday.
"You can't win tournaments making that many errors," Williams said. "I knew I had to play better, and I knew I could."
And so she did.
"Obviously, she's going to pick up her level. I knew that was going to happen," McNally said. "Next time, I just have to raise my level with hers."
Williams improved to 38-0 in the first two rounds at Flushing Meadows. The only time she was beaten as early as even the third round in New York was in her tournament debut all way back in 1998 — when she was just 16 herself.
DJOKOVIC WINS IN STRAIGHTS DESPITE SHOULDER
Novak Djokovic is through to the third round at the U.S. Open and will use some of the time until then getting more treatment on his left shoulder.
Djokovic fought through trouble with the shoulder to beat Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-1.
The defending champion was treated by the trainer multiple times in the match and appeared in trouble when he fell behind 3-0 in the second set. But he battled back to take it in a tiebreaker and had an easy time in the third set.
The No. 1 seed wouldn’t reveal much about the nature of the injury in his post-match interview.
Barty won the French Open in June and is trying to get past the fourth round in New York for the first time.
She needed to get through a three-setter in her opening match Monday, and almost needed to do so again against the 73rd-ranked Davis, who played with her left leg heavily taped. But Davis couldn't take the second set despite being a point away.
Barty eventually converted her fourth match point.
The match was played indoors at Louis Armstrong Stadium because of rain that washed out all but nine singles matches on the Day 3 schedule.