Federer: 'I Clearly Have To Play Better From The Get-Go'
The Swiss is through to the third round in New York for the 19th time, but dropped the opening set in both of his matches to Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal and Bosnian Damir Dzumhur. Although he successfully came back from a set down in two consecutive matches for the first time since 2015 Dubai (Djokovic & Berdych), Federer made it clear that he wasn’t pleased with his slow starts.
“I got exactly what I expected from both guys. I knew what Nagal was going to give me. I knew what Dzumhur was going to give me. But I didn't expect to hit 15 to 20 unforced errors, which is basically in the entire set just sort of donated,” sad Federer. “They came out and were well-prepared and got me to do that. But I clearly have to play better from the get-go.”
The five-time champion won't have history on his side as he looks to capture his first title in New York since 2008. No player has lost the opening set in their first two matches and gone on to win the US Open since the challenger round was abolished in 1912.
But while Federer isn’t pleased, he isn’t worried. After 21 years on the ATP Tour, this isn’t the first time he hasn’t come out firing to start a tournament. He understands that winning titles isn’t necessarily about perfection, but progress from match to match. The Swiss will be looking for marked improvement in his third-round clash against No. 25 seed Lucas Pouille of France or Brit Daniel Evans.
“I have been in that position many times where you go through a little phase where you don't start so well and everybody asks you right away, ‘What are you going to do?’ Just go back to the drawing board. Just do the same things again. You hope for a better outcome,” said Federer. “When it happens like this back-to-back matches, it's just a bit frustrating more than anything, especially when the level is that low and there are that many errors and the energy is not there.
“[I] can only do better, which is a great thing moving forward. I just need to take the positives out of it, because once I lose that first set I do get better, which is a good thing.”
Federer also knows that the work to win Grand Slams comes well before they start. After going on a family caravan trip following last month’s Wimbledon final loss to Novak Djokovic, he engaged in light fitness and hitting sessions at home in Switzerland before slowly increasing the intensity. His practice sessions in New York can only address slight tweaks now that he’s in match mode, but he’s confident that his efforts to start more quickly will come to fruition this fortnight.
“I can't reinvent myself from today to the third round. That's where experience kicks in,” said Federer. “Tomorrow I will not practise over an hour, because I believe that all the hard work I have put in since Wimbledon and before, that I'm ready for that… I have had a good season so far and I’m ready for the next round.”