Second seed Roger Federer defeated a frustrated Benoit Paire 7-5 6-4 6-4 at the US Open on Thursday to set up a third-round match against Nick Kyrgios. Despite the win Federer was far from flawless, especially in the third set when he saw a 4-1 lead evaporate and fell 5-4 behind due to some uncharacteristically poor serving. But he bounced back to see off the bearded Frenchman, who acted erratically throughout the match – screaming wildly, tossing his racquet and kicking the ball after sending it into the net.
“It’s different,” Federer said of playing the unpredictable Paire, who was at times brilliant but still managed 47 unforced errors and 11 double faults in the two-hour affair. Federer, who double faulted three times and committed 13 unforced errors in the third set, admitted he was not at his best but was happy to advance.
“It was a bit sort of up and down,” he said. “I think it’s always tricky against Benoit. There’s a lot of tactics going on. Never quite the same point.”
“Sometimes he plays very deep in the court, then he plays up in the court. That’s maybe why you draw errors out of each other rather than winners at the end,” he said. “The match maybe doesn’t look so good.”
Next up for the 37-year-old is a hotly-anticipated clash with Australia’s Kyrgios, who recovered to beat Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert earlier on Thursday. “We’ve had some brutal matches over the years. We enjoy playing against each other,” said Federer.
“He has one of the best serves in the game and he’s super talented.”
Novak Djokovic overcomes blip to beat Sandgren
Two-times former champion Novak Djokovic overcame a lapse in concentration to beat unseeded American Tennys Sandgren 6-1 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2 and reach the third round of the US Open on Thursday. The Serb, who was also pushed to four sets in punishing daytime temperatures above 90 Fahrenheit (32C) in the first round, was far more comfortable in the evening at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, breaking early and running away with the opening set in 31 minutes.
The 31-year-old was two sets up and leading by a break in the third when he spurned a match point, allowing Sandgren to force a tiebreak that the American won easily. Djokovic, however, recovered well, achieved an early break in the fourth set and closed out the match in two hours, 45 minutes.
“I thought I played really well in the first two sets and then I lost it mentally,” Djokovic said courtside. “I lost my composure and concentration but I got it back in the fourth.” Djokovic also spoke about the noise from the crowd both between and during points but said it had not been a factor in him losing concentration.
“I was just referring to the atmosphere that the night session at the US Open has,” the sixth seed told reporters. “I’ve played many times here. It has no connection to my loss of concentration. It was just me, being me sometimes, the other me that my first me doesn’t like.
“You just have to accept it. You can’t expect that 23,000 people are quiet… Wimbledon is all white, it’s tradition. You can’t hear a sound when you play a point. Here it’s different. That’s why these majors are unique in their own way.” The Serb, who won Wimbledon this year, will face 26th seed Richard Gasquet of France in the third round.
Kyrgios listens to umpire’s advice and secures win
Nick Kyrgios, who rarely listens to anyone, appeared to take some advice to try harder from chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani as he rallied to beat Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert and reach the U.S. Open third round on Thursday. In a bizarre scene that caused an instant stir on social media, Lahyani got off his chair with Kyrgios down a set and trailing 3-0 in the second to give the Australian a pep talk.
For almost a minute the animated Lahyani gestured and pleaded with the stone-faced Kyrgios and the Swedish umpire could be heard telling him: ‘I’m trying to help you”. Although Kyrgios dropped the opening set his level of play and interest rose dramatically after the pep talk and he swept the next three sets for a 4-6 7-6(6) 6-3 6-0 win.
Kyrgios shrugged off the entire episode as nothing new but the sight of an umpire offering unsolicited advice was uncomfortable enough that the United States Tennis Association (USTA) decided to investigate the incident. “It’s happened in Shanghai. We all know I had that moment in Shanghai where the referee said the same thing – ‘It’s not good for the integrity of the sport, doesn’t have a good look’,” said Kyrgios. “It happens in other sports, too.”
The USTA later issued a statement saying there was no reason to take action against the umpire, explaining that Lahyani came down because of the noise level in the stadium and was simply concerned Kyrgios might have needed medical attention. He also informed Kyrgios that if his seeming lack of interest in the match continued, as the chair umpire he would need to take action.
“The umpire in Shanghai didn’t cop any backlash,” said Kyrgios. “It happened to me in Cincinnati two weeks ago against (Juan Martin) Del Potro, the exact same thing happened. I wasn’t putting forth my best performance. “I did the same today. The umpire was like, ‘Nick, you can’t be doing this. It’s a bad look’. Same thing happened there.”
The enigmatic Australian, viewed as one of the sport’s great talents who has yet to fulfil his potential, looked set to produce another lacklustre effort as he stayed cemented to the baseline, barely flinching as Herbert served for a 3-0 lead. It was then that Lahyani climbed down from his chair at the changeover and advised Kyrgios to show more interest.
While the contest turned in Kyrgios’s favour after the chat the 30th seed said the talk had nothing to do with the outcome. “I’m not sure it was encouragement. He said he liked me,” Kyrgios, who next plays Roger Federer, said with a laugh. “He just said that it’s not a good look.
“I know what I was doing out there wasn’t good. I wasn’t really listening to him (Lahyani). Didn’t help me at all.” After Federer beat Frenchman Benoit Paire 7-5 6-4 6-4 he was asked about the umpire’s action in the Kyrgios match. “It’s not the umpire’s role to go down from the chair. But I get what he was trying to do. He (Kyrgios) behaves the way he behaves. You as an umpire take a decision on the chair, do you like it or don’t you like it. But you don’t go and speak like that, in my opinion,” said the second-seeded Swiss.
“I don’t know what he said. I don’t care what he said. It was not just about, ‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Oh, I’m not feeling so well. Go back up to the chair.’ He was there for too long.
“It’s a conversation. Conversations can change your mindset. It can be a physio, a doctor, an umpire for that matter. That’s why it won’t happen again. I think everybody knows that.”
Alexander Zverev sails into third round
Fourth seed Alexander Zverev beat a second lucky loser at the US Open on Thursday, overcoming Nicolas Mahut 6-4 6-4 6-2 to reach the third round as he bids for his first Grand Slam title. The 21-year-old German won all of his five break points and thumped 10 aces and 18 winners to dispatch his French opponent in one hour and 49 minutes.
Zverev told reporters he was pleased with his performance, having never reached the third round at Flushing Meadows. “This was always the Grand Slam where I didn’t play my best ever,” Zverev said. “Game-wise, I never felt comfortable here. Finally I do.”
He added that he was working to minimise distractions to help him focus more on the matches ahead. “I don’t go out at all… I spend the least possible time here on site because that takes energy away,” Zverev said. “(I)may be enjoying New York a little less, but that gives me, you know, the credibility to play better.”
The up-and-coming Zverev has had a relatively easy road at Flushing Meadows after beating another lucky loser, Peter Polansky, in straight sets in the first round. He will expect his good fortune to continue when he meets unseeded countryman Philipp Kohlschreiber in the third round on Saturday, having won their last two meetings.