NEW YORK – Roger Federer made light of energy-sapping conditions to brush past Yoshihito Nishioka 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 in his opening match at the U.S. Open on Tuesday.
Where other players had slogged through long rallies as the temperature hit 32 degrees Celsius, Federer kept his time on court to a minimum with a master class of serve-and-volley tennis, pulling the industrious world No. 177 from one side of the court to the other at will.
Federer, the second seed, broke the Japanese left-hander in the opening game of the one-sided encounter and never looked back, rattling through his service games with a minimum of fuss to wrap up the first set in 28 minutes.
“I’m happy to be back in New York, healthy — the last couple of years have been difficult so it’s nice to be back, feeling really good,” Federer said courtside after the win.
“I’m happy I played well tonight and Nishioka was a tough opponent. He’s got fast legs and a bright future ahead of him. I was very happy with how I played.”
The Swiss took 35 minutes to close out the second set and, with Nishioka firmly on the ropes, started the third by racing to a 4-0 lead before his Japanese opponent held serve.
Nishioka rallied briefly at the end, denying Federer the chance to serve out the set and battling back to 5-4 with his first break of serve.
But Federer put his beleaguered opponent out of his misery in his next service game, wrapping up the victory in one hour and 52 minutes.
Federer, who has never lost an opening round match at Flushing Meadows, said he would try to continue that streak until he finally hangs up his racket.
“I’m happy I never stumbled at the first hurdle. It’s almost time to retire, but not yet,” the 37-year-old said with a smile, adding that the conditions had been tough.
“I think particularly tough for us Europeans, we don’t get this type of humidity where we live and grow up. It’s something we have to get used to,” admitted Federer, who is looking for a sixth U.S. Open crown and first since 2008.
Next up for the Swiss is a second-round clash with unseeded Frenchman Benoit Paire.
Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori and Naomi Osaka reached the second round with straight-sets wins in their respective men’s and women’s matches.
World No. 19 Nishikori beat Germany’s Maximilian Marterer, ranked 50th, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 in his first match to set up a second-round clash with Gael Monfils of France on Friday.
Nishikori, a finalist in 2014 and a semifinalist in 2016, said he played a “perfect game” against the 191-cm Marterer, winning four straight games in the opening set and playing aggressively from the baseline in the next two sets.
“It was a game with quality content and I was able to get off to a good start,” Nishikori said.
“I played my forehand net shots well and hit good flat backhand returns. I hope to keep this up in the second round.”
Earlier in the day, Osaka breezed past Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour, 18 minutes, winning her opening match at the U.S. Open for the third year in a row despite a low first-serve percentage of 51 percent.
“I wasn’t able to play the way I wanted to, but I have to give myself credit for avoiding getting stuck in a pushing rally. I have to work on my serves,” Osaka said.
Osaka will face Julia Glushko of Israel in her next match.
Elsewhere for Japan in the first round of the men’s singles, Yuichi Sugita and Taro Daniel were both eliminated.
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