Flash of genius from Federer in comfortable win

Roger Federer lit up the opening day of the US Open with another moment of sheer genius during his first-round victory at Flushing Meadows.

Roger Federer lit up the opening day of the US Open with another moment of sheer genius during his first-round victory at Flushing Meadows.

Federer had won the first set against Argentina’s Brian Dabul and was 5-3 up in the second when he conjured up a winner from between his legs with his back to the court.

Dabul looked to have played the perfect lob which landed just inside the baseline, but Federer came up with a mirror image of his famous winner in his semi-final against Novak Djokovic last year.

The world number two achieved a standing ovation from the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, while a wave of his arms suggested Federer could not believe the shot himself.

To his credit, world number 96 Dabul saved five break points in that game and four in his previous service game before Federer eventually served out for the set on his way to a 6-1 6-4 6-2 victory in 93 minutes.

Speaking about the shot between his legs, Federer said: “I thought I was a bit late and had to give it one last push to get there but thought I could do this again.

“It’s different because Novak was at the net but I’ve only hit a few in my life and to do two on Centre Court in night sessions is amazing.

“I feel very much at home here, I’ve always played some good tennis, six straight finals and would like to go there again this year and I’m excited to be back and playing well.”

The only disappointing aspect of Federer’s performance was converting just five of his 19 break points, but the 16-time Grand Slam winner said: “I had a lot of chances but credit to Brian too, his first time in a major and on centre court and I think he did a good job.”

Only two seeds lost on the opening day, with France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu handing 32nd seed Lleyton Hewitt his first defeat in the opening round of the US Open, winning 6-3 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-1.

Hewitt, a former winner here, dismissed talk of retirement and said: “I still believe I can improve as a player. When I play my best tennis, like in Halle (in June, when he beat Federer to win the title), I still feel like I can match it with anyone.”

Fernando Gonzalez was the other seed to fall, the 27th seed forced to retire injured from his match with Croatia’s Ivan Dodig after Dodig won the second set 6-1 to level the contest.

Elsewhere, American Andy Roddick celebrated his 28th birthday by beating France’s Stephane Robert 6-3 6-2 6-2, but fifth seed Robin Soderling had a far tougher time against Austrian qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer before winning in five sets.

France’s Gael Monfils also needed five sets to beat American Robert Kendrick, the 17th seed winning 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-4 on Court 11, while sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko beat American Michael Russell 6-4 6-1 6-3 to set up a second-round clash with France’s Richard Gasquet.

Croatia’s Marin Cilic, the 11th seed, also advanced with a 7-5 6-3 6-1 win over Illya Marchenko, while Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, the 22nd seed, thrashed Martin Klizan of Slovakia for the loss of just four games.

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