NEW YORK – At this point in his career, Roger Federer recognizes the importance of a little extra work.
That is why the owner of a record 17 major singles titles, and the man who spent more weeks ranked No. 1 than any other, was out there on a U.S. Open practice court late Tuesday afternoon, putting in some training time shortly after finishing off a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over 62nd-ranked Grega Zemlja of Slovenia in the first round.
At 32 and holding his lowest ranking, No. 7, in more than a decade, and coming off a stunningly early exit at the previous major tournament — one of a series of newsworthy losses lately — Federer is OK with making some concessions. The Swiss superstar insists his passion for tennis remains.
“I’m in a good spot right now,” Federer said. “I want to enjoy it as long as it lasts.”
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He made it sound, though, as if it isn’t as easy to enjoy things the way his results have been going.
Federer entered Tuesday 32-11, a .744 winning percentage that doesn’t sound too bad until you consider he has had years where he went 81-4 (.953). and 92-5 (.948). He has won one tournament in 2013; the last time he won fewer than three in a season was 2001.
“Clearly, when you win everything, it’s fun. That doesn’t necessarily mean you love the game more. You just like winning, being on the front page, lifting trophies, doing comfortable press conferences. It’s nice. But that doesn’t mean you really, actually love it, love it,” said Federer, whose streak of 36 consecutive Grand Slam-event quarterfinals ended with a second-round defeat at Wimbledon against an opponent ranked 116th. “That maybe shines through maybe more in times when you don’t play that well.”
Meanwhile, a virtually unknown teen from the United States made a Grand Slam breakthrough.
Victoria Duval, a 17-year-old qualifier who is ranked 296th in the world, eliminated 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur of Australia 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
“A big moment, big stage. Not easy closing any match out, let alone a past U.S. Open champion,” Duval said. “So happy I did it, though.”
Duval jumped up and down with arms aloft after pounding a forehand winner to convert her fourth match point. And why not? Duval had never beaten a player ranked higher than 69th.
“I know she didn’t play her best today, and this is the best I’ve played in my career, so I’m really excited,” Duval said.
Stosur was unhappy with the way she played, including 10 double faults and a total of 56 unforced errors, 21 more than Duval.
“I’m not going to be a sore loser and say she didn’t do anything,” the 11th-seeded Stosur said. “But, you know, I think I certainly helped her out there today, that’s for sure.”
Other seeded women on the way out were No. 17 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 20 Nadia Petrova and No. 31 Klara Zakopalova.
Men’s seeded losers were No. 14 Jerzy Janowicz, No. 15 Nicolas Almagro, No. 25 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 28 Juan Monaco.
No. 2 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus served 99th-ranked Dinah Pfizenmaier of Germany a double bagel, winning 6-0, 6-0.
Top-seeded Novak Djokovic of Serbia began his bid for a second U.S. Open title by beating 112th-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.