Monday, August 31, 2009
World number one Roger Federer began the defence of his US Open title with a 6-1 6-3 7-5 victory over American teenager Devin Britton.
Federer started magnificently and broke his 18-year-old opponent twice before taking the opening set in 18 minutes.
The 28-year-old Swiss was broken once in the second and third sets but came through in 88 minutes and will play Germany's Simon Greul in round two.
Home favourite Andy Roddick, the 2003 champion, plays later on Monday.
Eight seed Nikolay Davydenko eased through with a 6-3 6-4 7-5 win against Dieter Kindlmann and he now faces the Czech Republic's Jan Hernych, who beat 2003 Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuettler in five sets.
"It's very important to find your game here for the next round," said Davydenko, who reached the last four in 2006 and 2007.
"Being in the semi-finals here twice has been great for me."
Robin Soderling, the French Open champion an 12th seed, was a 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-4 winner against Albert Montanes and number 14 seed Tommy Robredo overcame Donald Young 6-4 3-6 6-2 6-3.
Paul-Henri Mathieu, seeded 26th, got off to a fine start against Mikhail Youzhny but fell apart to lose 2-6 7-5 6-0 6-2 and now trails the Russian 4-1 in their head-to-head record.
If my career was to end today, I'd be a happy man - but if I enjoy playing tennis, why should I stop just because I've beaten the all-time Grand Slam record? That's not what tennis is all about
The next opponent for Federer is the unseeded Gruel, who came through a marathon to beat Giovanni Lapentti 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-0 7-6 (11-9).
Federer is bidding to become the first man to win six straight US Open titles since Bill Tinden from 1920 to 1925.
"It was a good start," Federer said. "It was a tricky match for me - I'm here as a five-time defending champion, playing a guy who's got absolutely nothing to lose. He played really well.
"He had some very good spells and I had to make sure I stayed with him and came back because I was down a break in the second and third sets.
"It was good to still get through in three sets."
Britton, ranked 1,370 in the world and a wildcard entry into the tournament, looked completely out of his depth early on.
The 2008 junior US Open runner-up won only one point in the first three games but put his name on the scoreboard in the fourth with three scorching aces.
Federer barely broke sweat in taking the first set but it looked as though he might have been in trouble at the start of the second.
Britton engineered three break points in game four and the promising right-hander broke to love with a rasping cross-court return.
But 15-time Grand Slam champion Federer upped the intensity and rattled off a five-game winning streak to go two sets up.
Federer looked rusty... which is surprising because he only played recently in Cincinnati - but I think he was trying different things after he got the cushion of the first set
"I was thinking, 'I'm up a break. This is exciting.' That lasted about 30 seconds," said Britton. "I lost 14 straight points after that. I think the nerves came back a little bit.
"It was fun for that 10 or 15 seconds until he broke me at love. It was probably the best seconds of my life."
With the third set a more even affair, it seemed Britton's break at 3-3 offered the American a route back into the match.
But he was immediately overpowered by the top seed, losing his serve and then falling 5-4 behind as Federer held comfortably.
Britton was again serving to save the match at 6-5 and, after squandering three game points to force a tie-break, he saw a Federer cross-court winner set up match point, which was converted with a fizzing cross-court forehand.
Federer remains in the hunt for a fifth Wimbledon-US Open double - no other man in the open era has achieved that feat more than twice - and he also hopes to win three Grand slam tournaments in a year for the fourth time.
"If my career was to end today, I'd be a happy man," said Federer. "I achieved everything I could ever ask for, really.
"But if I enjoy playing tennis, why should I stop just because I've beaten the all-time Grand Slam record? That's not what tennis is all about."