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Wednesday, 30 August 2017 09:08 AM BST
US Open Day 2: Federer survives Tiafoe scare rounds up the action from Day 2 at the US Open. READ MORE

Federer survives Tiafoe scare

The US Open is sometimes described as a survival of the fittest, a task that requires as much mental strength as physical prowess, coping with the sounds and smells that flow through Flushing Meadows. Sometimes even the best players need a bit of help from the crowd to get over the line and on Wednesday night, Roger Federer just about dragged himself over the line in a far tougher contest than he and almost everyone else would have expected. 

In front of the likes of Sean Connery and Victoria Beckham, Federer’s 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 victory over Frances Tiafoe of the United States was every bit as topsy-turvy as it sounds and the 36-year-old Federer was fortunate in the end to make it through, having struggled early on and even in the final set when he failed to serve it out, only to break Tiafoe in the 10th game.

There seemed more relief than joy as Federer spoke after the match and he admitted that he had begun the match concerned about his stiff back, which had flared up in the final of his lone warm-up event, in Montreal just over two weeks ago.

“It was more than a test, it was a good one,” Federer admitted. “I think we both enjoyed ourselves out there. I’m very happy with the match, it was very exciting.

“I had a bit of a slow start today. I was maybe a bit worried a little from my back issue a couple of weeks ago but eventually I was able to let go.

"To get through a five-setter, I believe this is going to give me great confidence because preparation was a bit compromised.”

He’ll need to play a lot better than that if he’s going to win a third Grand Slam title of the year, following his wins in Australia at Wimbledon. Tiafoe began the match like a train, hammering huge groundstrokes past Federer, whose movement was not as silky smooth as normal and whose serve was out of rhythm for the opening set, perhaps put out sync by the noise of the roof, which was closed on a day when only six matches were completed, all on Ashe.

To get through a five-setter, I believe this is going to give me great confidence"

- Roger Federer

Had Tiafoe been a little more consistent at the start of the second set, he might have extended his advantage but instead Federer snatched the second and then in the third, his movement began to flow as the shackles came off and he moved ahead. But Tiafoe wasn’t done, the 19-year-old breaking early and cruising through the fourth.

The crucial break came in the fourth game of the decider as Federer moved ahead but even then he couldn’t serve out the match at 5-3, missing a match point. But though he missed another in the next game on the Tiafoe serve, he snatched victory when the American netted a low forehand.

“It definitely gives me a lot of motivation to work harder, just try to keep getting better,” Tiafoe said. “I want to win matches like this. For a while I feel like I can play against anyone in the world. Now it's a matter of finishing these types of matches. I've been playing against really good guys. Put myself in positions to win.

"Eventually I'll win more than I lose these.”

Best shots

While it would prove to be just a consolation, Tiafoe pulled out two of the best forehands of the match on consecutive points to break Federer while he was serving for a place in the second round...

Nadal moves through the gears

Nadal also struggled in the early stages of his match with Dusan Lajovic of Serbia, finding conditions under the roof tricky. He double-faulted on set point in the opening-set tiebreak but once he won it 8-6, he pulled away to a 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory that he says will give him confidence after a few early nerves.

“It was tough at the beginning of the match. Some nerves, obviously, after a week here practising well, I think. I was practising every day at very high level. Today I didn't play at that high level, but the important thing is I won, and I have one more day to keep practising and another chance to play better the next day.”

It’s a long way to a possible Federer-Nadal semi-final but they are over the first hurdle.

Kerber on the slide

Having begun the year as the world No.1, Angelique Kerber is set to drop out of the top 10 after she was upended 6-3, 6-1 by the hugely talented Naomi Osaka of Japan in the first round. The defending champion, who also lost in the first round at the French Open, admitted she was sad and was paying the price for her efforts of 12 months ago, when her US Open victory was her second slam of a fantastic year.

“I'm still the same player and the same person,” she said. “I think it's just the matches and how I played last year from the beginning and how I'm struggling this year. But I know that I'm strong and I know that I will come back stronger, for sure.

"I know that I will not giving up like this. I will try to forget the match as soon as possible and looking forward again."

Pliskova begins title bid

There were no such problems for the world No.1 Karolina Pliskova, who is trying to go one better than last year, when Kerber edged her out in the final. The Czech was far too good for Magda Linette of Poland, opening up with a 6-3, 6-1 victory.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko dropped a set to Lara Arruabarrena of Spain but won 6-2, 1-6, 6-1, winning the last three games after the match was moved to Ashe under the roof. And Madison Keys also advanced, seeing off Elise Mertens of Belgium 6-3, 7-6(6).

Quote of the day

“Nothing is easier. Everything is easier with 20.”

Rafael Nadal, when asked what is easier in your 30s than in your 20s.

Stat of the day

Roger Federer is now level with Andre Agassi with 79 men's singles wins at the US Open, joint second on the all-time list behind Jimmy Connors, who had 98.

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