Roger Federer advanced to the third round at the U.S. Open but it was the second straight match where the 38-year-old star dropped the first set before looking like he was awake.
Wednesday afternoon, Federer beat Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, but when Dzumhur, who’s ranked 99 in the world, grabbed the first set, up 4-love before Federer looked like he had a pulse, everyone on the premises seemed to take notice!
And on opening night, Federer also dropped the first set before getting through the qualifier from India, Sumit Nagal, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“I mean, look, I got exactly what I expected from both guys,” the 20-time Grand Slam winner said. “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 donating it.”
Federer committed a total of 45 unforced errors in the match, which is unacceptable to him.
Federer turned 38 this past August 8. His last Grand Slam title came at the Australian Open in 2017. He lost a 5-set epic to Novak Djokovic at the Wimbledon final in July, despite having two match points on his serve in the fifth set. His last U.S. Open title, after winning five straight, came in 2008.
Similar to Tiger Woods - his superstar friend in golf - who will turn 44 on December 30, Federer knows how to conserve his energy with his practice and playing schedule.
When asked how he finds balance now when he practices so he doesn’t overdo it, Federer replied, “You chat to the team and you see -- look, I know I can't reinvent myself from today to the third round. That's where experience kicks in. I know it's more of the mind that needs either a rest from, you know, from either a lot of practice or busy days or pressure, whatever it may be. I think this is where you find the energy, in my opinion.
“Tomorrow I will not practice 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. So tomorrow is really just to make sure I get to feel the ball again in an environment where I have no pressure. Every ball I play out there you feel like some sort of a pressure not to miss it, having to make it, wanting to hit a winner, hitting a good serve.
"When you go out to practice on these in-between days it's quite nice just to be hitting freely and actually not think of anything while you're hitting the ball, or depending on if you have to work on a few little things, you do that. We'll chat with the team. But I'm happy where I am at. I have had a good season so far, and I'm ready for the next round. So that's good.”
In addition to the work and time he puts in playing and training, Federer rejoined the 10-member ATP Player’s Council recently (as did Rafael Nadal and Jurgen Melzer). Federer was President from 2008-2014.
The push is on for more prize money in men’s tennis but the real discussion is how it should be distributed among the players.
Novak Djokovic is the current President of the Player’s Council.
“When I started and won my first Grand Slam in Australia,” Federer said, “I don't remember what the prize money was. I thought it was around $450,000 maybe for the winner and now we're at 3.6 (million), maybe.”
The Winner of the U.S. Open, both in the men’s and women’s draw, each get a record $3.8 million dollars. The runners-up earn $1.9 million.
“I think it was important for us,” Federer continues, “Just to be able to raise winners' prize money and come up with that so we can rival also other sports like golf and others so we have a higher prize money for winners.
“That went up very quickly, very drastically, which is great. But then, I don't know how you say, it became too big between the winner and first-round loser. So, we have that more organized nowadays.
“I do believe the challenger players and also maybe the qualifying and second-round loser should get more, you know. So, I think if there should be increases it shouldn't be at the top anymore. I feel like we have reached a pretty good level there.
“So, yeah, I think that's going to be what we're going to fight for. And if we want prize money increases, I know the tournaments don't find it very sexy giving it to first-round quallies or second-round quallies or challengers. But the Tour, it would be nice if the players could also survive on the Challenger Tour in the lower ranks and not just at the very top.”
Federer’s passion for the game and the game’s future is just one of the reasons he’s one of the most respected and well-liked players in the game.
Whether or not he can win any more Major titles or is considered the Greatest of All Time when his career is complete, one thing is for certain, Federer is a class act and the game is so much better because of him.