Sometimes it doesn’t matter how you win as long as you win. This was the case for Roger Federer as he struggled past Mikhail Youzhny 6-1, 6-7(3), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, in the second round of the US Open.
The 19-time grand slam champion headed into the match with high expectations after a lacklustre start to his New York campaign. Two days earlier, he was pushed to five sets by rising star Frances Tiafoe, exposing vulnerabilities in his current form. Leading into the final major of the year, he pulled out of Cincinnati due to a back issue.
It was expected that Federer would hit back at critics with a solid display over Youzhny. A player who he had previously defeated 16 times and had only ever dropped four sets against. Instead, he left himself facing more scrutiny after a roller coaster performance featuring 59 unforced errors as well as 59 winners.
“I’m better than the first round, so I’m happy.” An upbeat Federer said during his press conference. “This match wasn’t about the back, which is good. This is more just a grind. I felt different, completely different, the way it played and everything. But I’m really, really happy I got through”
“These five-set battles are actually quite a lot of fun. I feel quite warm up by now.” He also added.
In the first 20 minutes he raced to a 5-0 lead without breaking a sweat against a former top 10 player. Youzhny struggled to settle down, producing 13 unforced errors throughout the opening set. The Russian did manage to get onto the scoreboard, but it did little to deter Federer from sealing the 6-1 lead.
Everything appeared to be going well for Federer heading into the second set, but his inconsistency from earlier in the week returned to haunt him. A sluggish start allowed Youzhny to break for a 2-0 lead before the second seed restored order by pushing ahead to 5-3. Ability was not the problem for Federer, it was the error count. A backhand into the net combined with a forehand shank allowed his Russian rival to break back and later take proceedings into a tiebreaker.
It was only appropriate that Federer should be punished for his patchy display. Youzhny illustrated shots reminiscent of the time he was world No.8. Hitting the ball deep and firing some some stunning forehand winners. The surge enabled him to grab the tiebreaker and only his fifth set against Federer in his entire career.
The turn of the tides cast a cloud of silence over the Arthur Ashe stadium with fans trying to comprehend what was going on. Federer’s stellar start to the match turned into disarray with Youzhny carefully edging his way through. The third set saw the world No.101 win 33 points, but 17 of those were due to a Federer error. The army of loyal fans kept cheering their Swiss leader on, but it wasn’t for him to win. It was for him to draw level. Something that he failed to do in the third set.
Six games away from suffering his worst-ever performance at Flushing Meadows, Federer spurred himself on with outbursts of ‘Chum Jetzt.’ The swiss-german version of the phrase ‘come on.’ He then managed to bring himself back into contention when a Youzhny backhand slammed into the net, prompting a euphoric roar in the audience and gifting Federer the break. Still he failed to maintain the lead, dropping serve again before forcing a decider with the help of a backhand error from his Russian rival on set point.
Youzhny’s investment in the match took its toll on his body as he cramped towards the final stages of the match. Dramatically falling on the court after one point. It was a gigantic effort that concluded in an anticlimactic way. A double fault on break point that elevated Federer to a 4-2 lead, two games from victory. His 80th US Open win was then secured with a smash at the net. Prompting Federer to raise his arms in celebration.
“It’s hard to watch, but unfortunately that’s how it is.” Federer commented on Youzhny’s cramps. “I was feeling it for Mikhail. We go back to the 98 juniors here, where we played the doubles against each other. It’s nice to see we’re still playing. We played a bunch of times and this was probably our best match.”
Two tough matches, one happy Federer
Despite the roller coaster journey into the third round at Flushing Meadows, Federer is unfazed by it all. Reflecting on his lead up to the tournament, the 36-year-old stated that he will improve as the tournament progresses.
“I see things very positive right now because the preparation hasn’t been its best.” He explained. “A big compromise, I might struggle early on. Still hope to get through the early rounds somehow, preferably in three sets, maybe four, maybe five.”
” I’m pretty confident that I’m only going to get better from here. That’s a good thing.
Starting a grand slam with back-to-back five-set matches for the first time in his career, Federer will next play 31st seed Feliciano Lopez. A player he has a 12-0 head-to-head record against. Lopez defeated compatriot Fernando Verdasco in four sets.
Andrey Rublev: “I don’t expect anything from myself in Melbourne”
Russian 22-year-old rising star Andrey Rublev started the 2020 season on a high note winning back-to-back titles in Doha and Adelaide. He beat French Next Gen player Corentin Moutet in the final of the Doha Qatar Exxon Mobil Open in the first week of the new year and repeated the feat by beating South African rising star Lloyd Harris in Adelaide.
Rublev has extended his winning streak to 12 matches, including 8 wins in the first two weeks of the 2020 season. He won the Doha title without dropping a set during the week. In Adelaide the Moscow native had to dig deep to beat Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 in a hard-fought semifinal match. With the Doha-Adelaide double Rublev became the first player to win back-to-back titles in the first two weeks of the season since 2004, when Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty won two consecutive trophies in Adelaide and Auckland.
Rublev picked up where he left off in 2019, when he won the Kremlin Cup in his hometown Moscow beating Adrian Mannarino in the final and finished runner-up to Nikoloz Basilashvili in the Hamburg final. The player coached by Fernando Vicente scored the biggest win of his career when he beat Roger Federer in Cincinnati to reach his first Masters 1000 quarter final before losing to eventual champion Danil Medvedev. At the US Open he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios en route to reaching the fourth round at the US Open before losing to eventual semifinalist Matteo Berrettini.
“I was not thinking about this statistic, but it’s an amazing feeling. I am really happy. I hope I keep working. I hope I keep improving, and we’ll see what’s going to happen”, said Rublev.
Rublev will open his Australian Open campaign against local favourite Christopher O’Connell in the first round. The Russian player is projected to play against David Goffin in a potential third round match, Alexander Zverev in the fourth round and Danil Medvedev in the quarter final.
Rublev, who has never advanced from the third round at the Australian Open, has no expectations for the first Grand Slam of the season.
“I am not waiting anything from myself in Melbourne. The only thing is that I want to fight and I believe well on court in my first match. Then we will see. I don’t think I am invincible, but for sure I am more confident in what I do after two titles in a row. I am working to be more consistent, to be more mentally strong. This is what we were working for and I am happy that these two weeks went this way. I got two titles. It’s amazing. I never had this before”, said Rublev.
Ugo Humbert claims the first title of his career after winning all-French final against Benoit Paire in Auckland
Twenty-one year-old Ugo Humbert beat Benoit Paire 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 7-6 (7-5) after 2 hours and 34 minutes in the all-French final of the ASB Classic in Auckland to claim the first title of his career.
Humbert has become the first French player to win the Auckland tournament. He enjoyed a great week beating Denis Shapovalov and John Isner en route to reaching the final.
Humbert earned the first break of the match in the second game after a double fault from Paire and held his serve with a service winner in the next game to open up a 3-0 lead. Paire broke back in the fifth game with a backand return winner. Humbert broke serve again in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Paire broke back in the seventh game to claw his way back to 3-4. Humbert earned three set points, when Paire was serving at 5-6. Humbert reeled off five consecutive points from 2-2 to claim the tie-break with three mini-break after a forehand error from Paire.
Paire fended off three break points in the third game of the second set before breaking serve in the fourth game after a double fault from Humbert. Paire saved a break point at 5-3 with an ace and closed out the second set with a backhand down the line winner.
Humbert earned an early break in the second game of the decider with a backhand crosscourt passing shot, before saving three break points at 4-2. Paire hit three consecutive backhand winners, as Humbert was serving for the match at 5-3 30-0. Paire got the crucial break in the next point, when Humbert sent a forehand long. Paire saved a championship point with a backhand volley winner in the 10th game. Paire held his serve with a backhand volley winner to draw level to 5-5. Paire rallied from 0-30 down in the 12th game to force the decisive set to the tie-break.
Humbert earned a mini-break on the sixth point with a forehand return to take a 4-2 lead and earned three championship points at 6-3. Humbert sealed the win on his third chance when Paire sent a backhand wide after 2 hours and 35 minutes.
“It’s a tournament of revenge because I have lost to four of five players I played this week. It’s a great improvement for me and I could not dream of a beginning for the season”, said Humbert.
Roger Federer Plays Down Air Quality Concerns Ahead Of Australian Open
Roger Federer has rejected concerns that air quality will affect the Australian Open ahead of his first round match on Monday.
Roger Federer has rejected the idea that air quality concerns will be a factor at this year’s Australian Open.
Recently air quality has been fairly unsafe as a recent result of the Australian bushfires that have impacted many parts of the country.
Melbourne has been one of the cities that has been impacted the most with many animals, firefighters and civilians suffering.
As the Australian Open approaches, it has also affected the first grand slam of the year with many players in qualifying suffering on Tuesday and Wednesday with conditions being deemed unsafe to compete in.
This has raised concerns about the tournament itself, which starts on Monday and one player that has been criticised in his lack of action is Roger Federer.
The 20 time grand slam champion is on the ATP Players Council and today he broke his silence, insisting that the air quality shouldn’t be a factor at this year’s Australian Open, “No, I don’t worry. From what we were told yesterday in the player meeting, the Olympic Games and other competitions have the numbers set at 300. Ours is set at 200,” Federer told the media on Saturday.
“From that standpoint, I think we’re moving in a very safe range. We’re not here for six months straight at over 200, 300, you know. That’s when maybe effects really become bad. No, I don’t worry too much, to be honest. I worry more for everybody else who is in the fire, in the smoke. Also we can stay indoors all day, quickly go out and play, go back in again. It’s not like we’re stuck outside at all times.
“I think communication is key from the tournament to the people, to the media, to the fans, to the players, because you do hear it’s not safe to be outside, keep your pets inside, close your windows. You have court calls, then you look at the haze and everything, it doesn’t look good. I think we’re going to get through it and it should be fine. It shouldn’t move, no.”
Conditions are expected to get safer in time for the first week of the grand slam as rain has hit the latter stages of the past week in Melbourne.
Although Federer has played down concerns of the air quality causing harm to the players, it is still is a cause for concern amongst tournament directors if the conditions played a part in the second week.
As for Federer, he starts his Australian Open campaign against Steve Johnson on Monday and is taking the tournament one match at a time, “I got to really make sure I get out of the gates quick,” Federer said.
“Practice has been going well. Had plenty of time to pace myself and do all the things I had to do to get ready. I hope it’s enough. I know it’s a super long road to victory. That’s why I got to take it one match at a time. My expectations are quite low. No, I’m excited to play Steve. He’s a good guy. I think with his old-school playing – big forehand, slice backhand, good serve – I think it’s going to be a nice match for me, as well.”
The Swiss will be looking for his 7th Australian Open title in Melbourne and his third in four years but will have to play Novak Djokovic before the final. The match with Johnson will be third on Rod Laver Arena on Monday after Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams play their matches.
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