Roger Federer's path towards a 6th US Open started comfortably on Tuesday with a 63 62 75 win over Slovenian Grega Zemlja in an hour and a half. The match was scheduled for opening night but rain postponed it.
It was hardly a masterclass from the 7th seed (that sounds weird, doesn't it?), but he got the job done without much difficulty at all. With the exception of one game in the third set where he was broken his serve was solid, and he shortened points frequently by coming to net, winning 20 of 21 points in the forecourt and hitting 33 winners to 16 errors.
From my experience in watching majors, fans try to judge too quickly how a player will play in the later rounds of a tournament by how he does in the first and second rounds against, for the majority of the time, opponents who pose very little threat. If a player wins 62 62 62, then he looks great and the predictions start about the second week - but if he struggles even the slightest bit then that doubt creeps in.
Right now, we know that Federer has a potential meeting with Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. But how he does in the first four rounds does not in any way give us the ability to predict how he might play vs Nadal in the quarters. The win today was solid and he faced no real trouble, and that's what matters. None of the top guys aim to play their absolute best in the early rounds unless, of course, they are forced to.
Federer will play Carlos Berlocq of Argentina, the intense ball of fire who is playing his best tennis now at 30 years of age. It should be a straightforward win along the lines of 63 62 64 unless the Warclocq brings out some of his magic.
Elsewhere in the draw so far, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, and Richard Gasquet have all advanced easily to the 2nd round. Other notables advancing were Milos Raonic, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Tommy Haas, John Isner, Julien Benneteau, Bernard Tomic, Feliciano Lopez, Nikolay Davydenko, Tommy Robredo, and American Jack Sock. Nicolas Almagro was upset while 28th seed Juan Monaco retired. Ernests Gulbis, the 30th seed, was upset in 5 sets and Fernando Verdasco was outed by Ivan Dodig.
While the top guys had smooth matches to the round of 64, many young guns bowed out in the opening round disappointingly. 11th seed Kei Nishikori lost in straights to Dan Evans. 14th seed Jerzy Janowicz, semifinalist at Wimbledon, crashed out to Maximo Gonzalez, who may be best known for being Roger Federer's first round opponent in his 13th Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2008. Granted, the Pole had a back injury, but it's still disappointing. Grigor Dimitrov, who now may be most famous for dating Maria Sharapova, lost to Joao Sousa in 5 sets, 6-2 in the 5th. The Bulgarian, who has tons of untapped potential, still hasn't advanced past the 3rd round in a major and is now 22. Finally, Vasek Pospisil lost a two sets to none lead to Rogerio Dutra Silva, wasting 7 match points in the process. The Canadian who entered the top 40 with his semifinal run in Montreal a few weeks ago, lived up to the ever-persistent choker label and has proven again to still struggle outside Canada.
That paragraph will lead to another article about the rise (or lack thereof) of young talent in the game, but that is for another time.
Until Roger's next match,
PS - I heard that Roger practiced after his win, and if that was the case, then you know he's dead serious about giving everything at this US Open.