US Open 2017: Roger Federer survives another scare to advance to third round
It took Federer over three hours, but he finally defeated Mikhail Youzhny in five sets
Mikhail Youzhny put up the fight of his life but it wasn't quite enough to defeat the No. 3 player in the world Thursday. Roger Federer defeated Youzhny in a 6-1, 6-7 (7-3), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, three-hour marathon.
The win was only two days after Federer took five sets to beat Frances Tiafoe, and it is another example of a Roger Federer that isn't quite the Federer of old. It's a different version of him than we saw mere months ago, when he swept through Wimbledon without losing a single set.
Surviving, of course, is the name of the game. And Federer survived Youzhny. There were times where the match felt like a war of attrition, with both players hobbling at various times. Federer had never won back-to-back five-set matches before this week, but there's a first time for everything. Federer was 16-0 against Youzhny before Thursday, but you never would have known it after watching this match. Youzhny has battled injuries throughout his career, but he persevered throughout the match.
There was a moment toward the end of the fourth set where it looked like Youzhny might have to retire. While hurdling for a long shot from Federer, Youzhny landed on his leg wrong and stayed on the court for a while. He was visibly cramping throughout the rest of the match and lost the next few serves due to sheer lack of mobility, but he stayed in and continued to fight.
Federer, 36, and Youzhny, 35, showed that some of the best tennis can be played when both players aren't at their best. It was a match based in finesse, and after Federer went down two sets to one he came back and took the fourth set in a tough 6-4 showdown. Federer's back has hindered him since he strained it earlier in August, and he had an uncharacteristic 68 unforced errors.
Historically Federer dominates at the US Open. This might affect how people view his odds for 2017, but Federer is still grinding. He won five straight Opens from 2004-08, but those days are behind him. Federer hasn't won the US Open since, although he has made two more appearances in the final. He also has never been bounced before the third round -- meaning he narrowly avoided a first Thursday.
After his dominant Wimbledon performance, there were questions regarding whether or not Federer was even mortal. His last two matches have emphatically silenced those questions. Roger Federer is mortal, but he's also experienced, and he's among the best tennis players in the world. Even if he isn't quite himself, those two factors are a lethal combination. Even if it takes him five sets to win every US Open match from here on out, he's still winning. The problem is that fatigue can catch up very quickly. There's no doubt Federer will be feeling this match in the morning, and he doesn't have long before the Round of 32.
The Open is a marathon, not a sprint. But when a player is forced to participate in several marathon matches within the longer marathon, it can start to wear them down. Federer laughed it off after the match, saying that "these five set battles are actually a lot of fun. I feel quite warmed up by now," in his post-match interview. It isn't the prettiest tennis, but it's undeniably exciting to watch. As Federer gets deeper, it will be interesting to see if he's fatigued or more dialed in while the field thins out.
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