US Open 2019: I knew I might struggle with hard-court rhythm, says Federer after scare
Sumit Nagal gave Roger Federer a fright when he took the first set of their US Open meeting, but the Swiss great found a winning response.
Roger Federer overcame a first-set shock to beat grand slam debutant Sumit Nagal at the US Open and insisted he had always expected a tricky start.
The 20-time major champion was in fleeting danger of a sensational first-round exit at Flushing Meadows when he dropped the opener to unheralded Indian Nagal, before recovering for a 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 triumph.
However, the third seed had anticipated it would be tough to adapt to the hard courts, having entered only one tournament since an epic Wimbledon final defeat to Novak Djokovic.
Federer was beaten by Andrey Rublev in the third round at the Western & Southern Open, his bye through the first stage meaning he played just twice, impacting his New York preparations.
“You can see that way that I haven’t played so much,” Federer said. “But I feel like I played a lot this year. I don’t want to say like I feel my body.
“It’s just a switch, again, from the clay and grass over to now the hard courts. I think it just requires different tempo in the shots.
“Also maybe sometimes going up again, sort of spinning the ball at times. I don’t think it plays particularly fast, especially it also was slower tonight, it was night session again.
“I’m playing a clay-courter, who is comfortable to just rally, keep the ball in play. He actually does a really good job, especially on the inside-out, how he gets around. That was impressive.
“I knew I could struggle, to be quite honest, especially with the rhythm.
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“You will be in trouble if you serve as poorly as I did in the first set. That puts the pressure on because he had the upper hand from the baseline.
“It was up to me to be able to change that. Yeah, I’m happy.”
Federer found his form by the end of the fourth set to close out the victory but suggested the match with Nagal was an example of the demanding nature of a five-set contest.
“You feel like you’re down and out, then all of a sudden you feel energy again, momentum,” Federer said.
“The crowd gets into it. You [Nagal] forgot completely you actually lost the last two sets 6-1 6-2.
“That’s why the score system in tennis is genius. You have to get over the finish line. I got that the hard way in Wimbledon [against Djokovic].
“He did a good job to stay with me. I had to close it out. That was a tough last game. Maybe exactly the kind of service game I needed to serve it out.”