NEW YORK – Roger Federer gave India’s Sumit Nagal a harsh introduction to Grand Slam tennis as the five-time champion weathered an early storm for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win on Monday to reach the second round of the U.S. Open.
When the match began it was Federer who surprisingly looked intimidated under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights as he sprayed errors all around the court but the Swiss great woke from his slumber in time to turn the match resoundingly in his favor.
“I thought I played like my beard today, I was rusty,” Federer, who was sporting a few days worth of stubble, said in his on-court interview.
“I’m going to clean it up for my next match.”
World number 190 Nagal, who has never earned a tour-level victory and only qualified for the year’s final Grand Slam last week, came out swinging and even put a rare look of incredulity on the faces of those inside third seed Federer’s box.
The 22-year-old Indian used impressive court coverage and sent heavily-spinning shots over the net during his dream start but his legs started to look more wobbly as the match wore and Federer righted the ship.
Still, the start to the match for former world number one Federer, who is chasing his first New York title since 2008, could not have been worse as he made 19 unforced errors in the first set.
Federer, playing in his first Grand Slam since he failed to convert two championship points on his own serve against Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, was down 0-40 while serving for the match but won six of the next seven points to hold for the win.
Serena trounces Sharapova
Serena Williams trounced old foe Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-1 in their blockbuster first-round clash at the U.S. Open on Monday to get her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title off to a flying start.
Williams, returning to the U.S. Open after last year’s infamous final in which her row with the chair umpire overshadowed Naomi Osaka’s maiden Grand Slam victory, used her trademark power to overwhelm Sharapova in the first New York meeting between two of the sport’s biggest names.
Eighth seed Williams showed no signs of the back spasms that forced her to retire in tears from the Toronto final two weeks ago and instead showcased some of her best on-court movement since returning from maternity leave in 2018.
“I just feel like her game really matches up well against mine,” said Williams, who improved to 20-2 in career meetings with the Russian. “I always said her ball somehow lands in my strike zone. I don’t know. It’s just perfect for me.”
The rivals, who have had a frosty relationship that dates back to 2004 when Sharapova earned her breakout win against Williams in that year’s Wimbledon final, came out firing right from the start.
Sharapova did her best to trade big shots with Williams but it quickly became apparent she simply did not have the same high gear she used to collect five Grand Slam titles.
The Russian has fallen to 87th in the rankings during an injury-hit season that included shoulder surgery in February.