Federer Rallies, Svitolina Tops Venus At US Open

Associated Press
August 28, 2019 - 6:54 pm
Roger Federer at the US Open

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NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Federer looked up at the Arthur Ashe Stadium scoreboard and for the second time in three days saw it lit up with a strange sight.

It showed Federer down a set to a player ranked far below him.

The five-time champion came back again, beating Damir Dzhumhur 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 on Wednesday to reach the third round of the U.S. Open.

With rain affecting play in Flushing Meadows for the first time in the tournament, only the matches on Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadium, which have retractable roofs, were able to be played in the early afternoon.

The covered conditions were no help at the start to Federer, though he couldn't quite explain why.

"I don't have an answer to you," he said. "It's just poor ball striking in the beginning."

Federer has reached the third round in all 19 appearances at the U.S. Open, though this was the first time he lost the first set in both of his first two matches in Flushing Meadows. No player has dropped the opening set in his first two matches and won the U.S. Open title since the challenge round was abolished in 1912, according to the ATP.

No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina beat two-time U.S. Open champion Venus Williams 6-4, 6-4 on Armstrong. Other winners included No. 3 Karolina Pliskova, who beat qualifier Mariam Bolkvadze 6-1, 6-4; and Kei Nishkori, the 2014 men's runner-up at the U.S. Open who beat Bradley Klahn 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Federer had a night match on the opening day of the tournament, dropping the first set against qualifier Sumit Nagal before winning in four sets. It was another slow start Wednesday against Dzumhur, whose No. 99 ranking was just good enough for direct entry into the final major of the season.

Federer, winner of a men's record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, was a little frustrated but not entirely surprised.

"I mean, look, I got exactly what I expected from both guys," Federer said. "I knew what Nagal was going to give me. I knew what Dzumhur was going to give me. But I didn't expect to hit 15 to 20 unforced errors, which is basically in the entire set just sort of donated. But look, they came out and they were well prepared and got me to do that. But I clearly have to play better from the get-go."

Williams had trouble herself at the start, and her team hoped some caffeine would be the pick-me-up she needed against Svitolina. So a cup of coffee was delivered after the set to a ballboy, who tried to bring it to Williams. But she walked off to the court back into the tunnel before he could get it to her, so he eventually dropped it off next to her seat.

Williams then came back to take a 3-0 lead to start the second. But having to save four break points for a tough hold in that third game seemed to take something out of the 39-year-old Williams, as Svitolina came right back to take five straight games for a 5-3 lead.

"I had to stay very focused," Svitolina said.

"I was expecting that she would raise her level."

Williams did, fighting off five match points in a 22-point game to hold her serve before Svitolina eventually ended it on her sixth chance, improving to 13-3 in Grand Slam matches this season.

All doubles matches were canceled Wednesday and plenty else had to be adjusted because of the weather.

Nishikori, a finalist at Flushing Meadows in 2014, relied on his strong baseline retrieving game against the hard-serving Klahn, a former NCAA champion at Stanford. But Nishikori appeared to struggle at times, getting only half his first serves in and throwing in a double fault on a break point to help Klahn come back from 5-1 down to tie the fourth set. Four match points slipped away down the stretch before Nishikori prevailed.

"A little bit of lost focus," he said after the match.

Off the court, No. 12 Borna Coric pulled out the tournament with a lower back strain, giving a second-round walkover to Grigor Dimitrov. That adds to a growing list of men's seeds who are out, including No. 4 Dominic Thiem, No. 8 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 9 Karen Khachanov and No. 10 Roberto Bautista Agut, who were all upset Tuesday.

Key night matches still to come include Djokovic against 56th-ranked Juan Ignacio Londero, and Serena Williams taking on 17-year-old American Caty McNally.