Roger Federer was stretched to five sets in his opening round match by unknown rookie Frances Tiafoe while defending champion Angelique Kerber bit the dust in her first round encounter at the 2017 US Open.
19-year-old Tiafoe, who has been tipped as one of the most exciting upcoming stars in the USA, surprised the Wimbledon and Australian Open winner in the first set before Federer made a comeback to win the next two.
And just when it seemed that the world number would get the better of the American in four sets, Tiafoe took the fourth to force a final set at Flushing Meadows. By then, Federer’s experience proved to be too much for Tiafoe as he triumphed 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 after two hours and 47 minutes.
A relieved Federer said:
“That was more than a test. I’m happy with the match, it was exciting.”
“I had a slow start, he was so good from the beginning. I was worried about my back issue from a few weeks ago. Fourth set was a pit I couldn’t get into the driving seat. When things connect for him, he’s great, he’s going to have a very good future.”
Federer also said he was fully fit and pointed to his survival in a five-setter as ample proof about it.
Tiafoe is a 70th-ranked American who turned pro in 2015. He had made it to round two at the Australian Open and Wimbledon earlier this year while bowing out of the opener at Roland-Garros.
Defending champion Kerber had no such luck on the second day of the US Open as she went down to Japan’s Naomi Osaka in straight sets.
Kerber, who hasn’t won a single title this year, continued her wretched form as she went down to the world number 45 in her first round encounter to a player who hit 22 winners to her nine.
There were no such issues for the men’s and the women’s top seeded players as both Rafael Nadal and Karolina Pliskova advanced to the second round without too many troubles.
Nadal needed a first set tie-breaker against Dusan Lajovic before winning 7-6, 6-2, 6-2 to make it to round two while Pliskova, dropped just three games in her win over Poland’s Magda Linette.