Roger Federer overcame a first-set shock to beat grand slam debutant Sumit Nagal at the US Open and insisted he had always expected a tricky start.

The 20-time major champion was in fleeting danger of a sensational first-round exit at Flushing Meadows when he dropped the opener to unheralded Indian Nagal, before recovering for a 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 triumph.

However, the third seed had anticipated it would be tough to adapt to the hard courts, having entered only one tournament since an epic Wimbledon final defeat to Novak Djokovic.

Federer was beaten by Andrey Rublev in the third round at the Western & Southern Open, his bye through the first stage meaning he played just twice, impacting his New York preparations.

"You can see that way that I haven't played so much," Federer said. "But I feel like I played a lot this year. I don't want to say like I feel my body.

"It's just a switch, again, from the clay and grass over to now the hard courts. I think it just requires different tempo in the shots.

"Also maybe sometimes going up again, sort of spinning the ball at times. I don't think it plays particularly fast, especially it also was slower tonight, it was night session again.

"I'm playing a clay-courter, who is comfortable to just rally, keep the ball in play. He actually does a really good job, especially on the inside-out, how he gets around. That was impressive.

"I knew I could struggle, to be quite honest, especially with the rhythm.

"You will be in trouble if you serve as poorly as I did in the first set. That puts the pressure on because he had the upper hand from the baseline.

"It was up to me to be able to change that. Yeah, I'm happy."

Federer found his form by the end of the fourth set to close out the victory but suggested the match with Nagal was an example of the demanding nature of a five-set contest.

"You feel like you're down and out, then all of a sudden you feel energy again, momentum," Federer said.

"The crowd gets into it. You [Nagal] forgot completely you actually lost the last two sets 6-1 6-2.

"That's why the score system in tennis is genius. You have to get over the finish line. I got that the hard way in Wimbledon [against Djokovic].

"He did a good job to stay with me. I had to close it out. That was a tough last game. Maybe exactly the kind of service game I needed to serve it out."

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer moved through at the US Open, but the stars advanced from contrasting matches on Monday.

Djokovic, the world number one and defending champion, had few problems against Roberto Carballes Baena at Flushing Meadows.

But Federer survived a surprise scare against Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal before getting through in New York.

The superstar pair progressed on what was a good day for the seeds in the men's draw, with only three making exits.

 

DJOKOVIC DELIGHTS

Djokovic did not face a break point on his way to a 6-4 6-1 6-4 victory over Carballes Baena on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The Serbian star mixed 25 winners with 30 unforced errors, breaking four times in a commanding win.

Djokovic will next face Juan Ignacio Londero after the Argentinian got past Sam Querrey 3-6 6-1 7-6 (7-3) 7-5.

FEDERER FIGHTS THROUGH

Federer, a 20-time grand slam champion, was well below his best in a 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 win against world number 190 Nagal.

The Swiss star finished with 57 unforced errors – and 61 winners – as he won through in two hours, 29 minutes.

Federer will hope for an improved display when he faces Damir Dzumhur, who recorded a 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-0 win over Elliot Benchetrit.

ONE STEP AT A TIME FOR MEDVEDEV

Kei Nishikori advanced as Marco Trungelliti retired on Monday, before the Japanese reeled off a list of names he believes are capable of challenging the 'Big Three', potentially starting at Flushing Meadows.

Nishikori named himself, Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov, Nick Kyrgios and also Daniil Medvedev. "I think things are starting to change a little bit now," he said.

But fifth seed Medvedev, who defeated Prajnesh Gunneswaran in straight sets, while appreciative of Nishikori's words, is not ready to talk of titles just yet.

"At this moment of my career, I haven't even been in the quarters of a slam yet," he said. "So that's the first step to make.

"If I make this step, then I can talk about bigger goals and bigger achievements."

Stan Wawrinka, the 2016 champion and 23rd seed, battled through, overcoming Jannik Sinner 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-3.

Only three seeds exited, with Fabio Fognini (11), Guido Pella (19) and Taylor Fritz (26) departing.

Roger Federer rallied from a set down as the third seed survived a big scare against grand slam debutant Sumit Nagal in the US Open first round.

Federer was far from his free-flowing best but he recovered from a slow start to eventually move past Indian qualifier Nagal 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-4 at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

The 20-time grand slam champion – who suffered a shock defeat last time out at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati – will next meet Damir Dzumhur in his pursuit of a first US Open title since 2008.

Nagal was not overawed under the bright lights on Arthur Ashe, where Federer looked comfortable in the opening two games but that was until errors started to creep in – the Swiss star recording 19 unforced errors in the first set.

World number 190 Nagal – aggressive from the baseline – benefitted from a couple of errors and a backhand shank to earn a pair of break points. Federer saved the first, but a double fault handed the break straight back to his unheralded opponent.

It did not get any better for Federer, who shanked another backhand as Nagal broke at 15-40 for a 5-4 lead before sensationally serving out the set.

Nagal continued to delight the Arthur Ashe crowd with his forehand winners down the line. But while Federer continued to spray some of his shots either wide or long, he managed to break after a marathon second game.

It was a confidence-boosting game for Federer, who slowly began to find his feet as he moved clear 4-0, much to the relief of his box and supporters.

Federer had six chances to win the set and level the match but he struggled to close it out, though he was not to be denied at the seventh time of asking thanks to a Nagal error.

Nagal was unable to keep up with Federer, who broke twice in a relatively comfortable third set to move ahead in the match for the first time and he never looked back, despite fending off four break points before serving it out.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN 
Roger Federer [3] bt Sumit Nagal 4-6 6-1 6-2 6-4

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 
Federer – 61/57
Nagal – 17/32

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 
Federer – 12/7
Nagal – 0/4

BREAK POINTS WON 
Federer – 7/13
Nagal – 3/13

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE 
Federer – 60
Nagal – 64

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE 
Federer – 71/48
Nagal – 59/46

TOTAL POINTS 
Federer – 130
Nagal – 108

Novak Djokovic said he is prioritising grand slam success after starting his US Open title defence with victory over Roberto Carballes Baena.

Defending champion and world number one Djokovic eased past Carballes Baena 6-4 6-1 6-4 at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Having survived a dramatic Wimbledon final against Roger Federer for his 16th grand slam, Djokovic is eyeing his fourth US Open crown and third major of the year.

Federer holds the record for most men's slams with 20 and Djokovic – while determined to add to his 33 ATP Masters 1000 trophies – is focused on peaking at major tournaments.

"I mentioned in my last news conference that obviously at this stage of my career and my life, it's mostly about grand slams, really," the 32-year-old Serbian told reporters.

"How can I set my shape and form to be at my best to reach the peak of my tennis performance and my abilities on the grand slam. They matter the most in the history of our sport. And certainly motivate me the most.

"Of course I do value every tournament that I play on, especially the big ATP 1000 Masters events, try my best. These are the events where I want to perform my best.

"Taking that into consideration, it's no different approach than it was in the past 10 years. Very motivated, very focused, very determined to do well. I have been in this particular situation many times in my career, and I know, you know, what feels comfortable for me, what I need to do in order to get far in the tournament.

"Obviously, I have lots of respect for anybody that I play against, and today I played against a player that I never faced before. That doesn't happen too often.

"It was a solid performance. I think I can still play better, but it's kind of expected for the first match and then, you know, I'm hoping that I can build from here."

Djokovic will face Argentina's Juan Ignacio Londero in the second round of the US Open.

Novak Djokovic enjoyed a serene start to his US Open title defence, turning in a classy display to ease away from Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4 6-1 6-4 at Flushing Meadows.

The brilliant world number one almost appeared to be entertaining his opponent's brave efforts early on, saving his first break of the match for the final game of the opener.

But then Djokovic accelerated out of sight and Carballes Baena simply had no answer, adding his name to the list of opponents who cannot get near the Serbian on this form.

Title number four in New York - and a third major triumph of the year - is in Djokovic's sights as he moves through to round two, where he will meet Sam Querrey or Juan Ignacio Londero.

It did not take long for Carballes Baena, playing Djokovic for the first time, to get a taste of what might be to come. The Spaniard had to fend off three break points before holding in a first service game that lasted close to 10 minutes.

But Carballes Baena would not be easily outmanoeuvred and cancelled out another two opportunities in the eighth game, briefly getting the better of Djokovic's outstanding defence.

Indeed, the underdog then took the match to the Serbian but this time merely prompted a cutting response, the set sealed in the top seed's favour after some fine work at the net.

Djokovic moved through the gears and broke immediately in the second, working his opponent into the ground as the early entertainment gave way to an inevitable outcome, with Carballes Baena conceding another tired break.

The world number 76 tried to stick with Djokovic again at the start of the third, only to go long on break point and set up a swift and straightforward finish.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
Novak Djokovic [1] bt Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4 6-1 6-4

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Djokovic – 25/30
Carballes Baena – 25/27

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Djokovic – 4/3
Carballes Baena – 5/5

BREAK POINTS WON
Djokovic – 4/11
Carballes Baena – 0/0

FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Djokovic – 60
Carballes Baena - 58

PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Djokovic – 84/66
Carballes Baena – 60/55

TOTAL POINTS
Djokovic – 94
Carballes Baena – 70

Andy Murray's return to the ATP Challenger Tour lasted just 43 minutes and 13 games as he thrashed teenager Imran Sibille at the Rafa Nadal Open.

A 6-0 6-1 success on Monday handed Murray his first singles win since returning from injury.

The former world number one has been building his fitness following hip resurfacing surgery in January that he believed would end his outstanding career.

The Briton recovered to play a series of high-profile doubles tournaments - including alongside Serena Williams in the mixed event at Wimbledon - before trying his hand back on the singles court.

But Murray, ranked 328th, has found it tough back on the regular ATP Tour circuit, losing in straight sets to both Richard Gasquet and Tennys Sandgren.

The 32-year-old therefore made the decision to return to the Challenger Tour for the first time in 14 years, featuring at the Rafa Nadal Open while his peers - including Rafael Nadal - play the US Open.

If Murray is to rediscover his best form, he will hope for sterner tests than that he faced from Sibille, though, who was dismantled with ease.

Just three points went the 17-year-old's way in the opener, with Murray only denied a double-bagel victory in the Frenchman's final service game of the second.

His next task in Mallorca is against Norbert Gombos, the third seed, on Tuesday.

Canadian star Milos Raonic has withdrawn from the US Open because of a glute injury.

Raonic, 28, will miss his fourth major of the past nine due to the injury, which – according to Tennis Canada – is the same one that saw him retire during the Rogers Cup earlier this month.

The 21st seed was scheduled to take on Nicolas Jarry in the opening round.

Raonic's spot in the draw will be taken by lucky loser Kamil Majchrzak.

The 2016 Wimbledon runner-up holds a 21-10 win-loss record this year, including reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals.

Novak Djokovic says Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have made a "great impact" since rejoining the ATP player council and welcomed a shorter meeting with the legendary duo in New York on Friday.

Federer and Nadal returned to the council this month in what has been a turbulent year politically on the men's tour.

Djokovic revealed in June that he considered joining a mass player council exodus because the governance structure is so inefficient and he feels seven-hour meetings are "unacceptable".

The world number one and head of the council has welcomed Federer and Nadal's decision to step up after they held talks ahead of the US Open.

Djokovic said at Flushing Meadows: "The impact is already great because they are the legends of our sport and two big names joining the council.

"There's already been a big impact on the rest of the players in the council, of course the larger group of tennis players in general, knowing that these two guys are willing to contribute, to come in to help out, to support, to participate in discussions and some decision-making.

"It was interesting. It has never happened that you have one, two, and three of the world in [a] council group that is [a] group of 10 players. So, all I hear from other players is positive comments about it.

"And it went well. They were very engaged. So, I'm looking forward to working with them."

Asked if it was not another seven-hour meeting, he added: "It wasn't and actually, that's why it was very surprising, to be honest.

"Because the last two before last night, the last two meetings we had were six and seven hours. And this [on Friday] was two, two hours 15 minutes. Because it was well prepared prior to the meeting, and we still didn't go through a full agenda. Of course, that's what happens most of the time.

"It's good that we at least are doing also work prior to sitting down so we could have a more efficient meeting."

Hubert Hurkacz lifted his first ATP trophy after upstaging top seed Benoit Paire in the final of the Winston-Salem Open.

Hurkacz made Polish history as the third seed stunned Paire 6-3 3-6 6-3 at the ATP 250 tournament in North Carolina on Saturday.

The 22-year-old became the first Pole to win a tour-level title since Wojtek Fibak in 1982 after breaking serve on five occasions against Paire.

Contesting his first ATP final, Hurkacz defeated four consecutive seeded opponents to celebrate a maiden trophy following wins over 16th seed Feliciano Lopez, 10th seed Frances Tiafoe and second seed Denis Shapovalov before trumping Paire.

Hurkacz, who withstood a brief rain delay in the decider, will now head into the US Open with confidence.

He will open his Flushing Meadows campaign against another Frenchman – Jeremy Chardy – while Paire is set to face Brayden Schnur.

 

Former US Open finalist Kevin Anderson will not play at Flushing Meadows next week due to a right knee injury, the United States Tennis Association has announced.

World number 17 Anderson was beaten Rafael Nadal in the 2017 final in New York, while he lost at the same stage at Wimbledon to Novak Djokovic in 2018.

But the South African's hopes of a breakthrough grand slam title have been ended for another year after he was forced to withdraw from the US Open two days before his tournament opener.

Anderson has played just 15 matches on the ATP Tour this season and has not featured since Wimbledon.

He had been drawn as the 16th seed at Flushing Meadows, but lucky loser Paolo Lorenzi will take his place against 16-year-old American Zachary Svajda.

There stood Roger Federer, already among the greats and with a fifth straight US Open title secured.

It was 2008 and the Swiss star had just passed Roy Emerson on the all-time list of major winners, securing his 13th and continuing his dominance at Flushing Meadows with a straight-sets victory over Andy Murray in the final.

Novak Djokovic had won his first grand slam in Melbourne at the start of the year and Rafael Nadal was still unbeaten at Roland Garros, the Spaniard then going on to clinch his first Wimbledon title.

It marked the third straight year in which the 'Big Three' had swept the grand slams, a feat they are looking to repeat 11 years later.

How little has changed entering the 2019 US Open, which starts on Monday.

Federer (three), Nadal (four) and Djokovic (four) have won the past 11 majors and still we wait for the 'Next Gen' to break through as the three greatest male players of all-time continue to dominate.

Murray's career-interrupting hip injury reduced the 'Big Four' to the 'Big Three' and there is no sign of anyone taking the three-time grand slam champion's place of being a consistent challenger at majors.

The years 2006 to 2008 marked the years of Federer and Nadal, and 2018-19 have been Djokovic's. The Serbian could finish this year having won three grand slams in a season.

In between, anticipated contenders have come and gone (Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic are 28) or come and been consistent without breaking through (Kei Nishikori is 29).

Stan Wawrinka was a regular star and won three grand slams before his injury woes, while Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro took their chances at Flushing Meadows in 2014 and 2009 respectively.

Another so-called 'Next Gen' – the likes of David Goffin (28) and Jack Sock (26) – has been replaced, while Dominic Thiem (25) looks the likeliest challenger to Nadal at Roland Garros.

Now emerges another group in Daniil Medvedev (23), Alexander Zverev (22), Stefanos Tsitsipas (21), Karen Khachanov (23) and Borna Coric (22).

Yet it remains hard to see the final verdict on 2019 not simply echoing that of 2008 as the 'Big Three' bid to complete another major sweep.

Benoit Paire continued his fine season to reach the Winston-Salem Open final as Hubert Hurkacz moved into his maiden ATP Tour decider.

Paire, the top seed at the ATP 250 tournament, beat Steve Johnson 1-6 6-0 6-0 in a rollercoaster clash in North Carolina on Friday.

After none of the scheduled quarter-finals were completed due to severe weather a day earlier, the tournament played catch up.

Paire overcame Pablo Carreno Busta in the last eight while Johnson, last year's runner-up, eliminated John Millman.

Frenchman Paire lost just 10 points in the third set in his semi-final against Johnson, moving onto 29 ATP Tour wins this season and into his eighth final.

Paire will face Hurkacz after the 22-year-old Pole beat Frances Tiafoe and Denis Shapovalov on Friday.

Hurkacz was a 6-3 6-4 winner over second seed Shapovalov, who overcame Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals, in their semi-final to move into his first ATP Tour final.

Rafael Nadal does not believe he has an advantage heading into the US Open after he was drawn away from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

World number two Nadal was placed in the bottom half of the draw, and cannot meet Federer or Djokovic until the final should he get that far.

However, the Spaniard shrugged off any suggestion he holds an edge going into the final grand slam of 2019.

"I don't know. I have to win my matches to have an advantage because I only can meet them after the semi-finals," Nadal said.

"I have plenty of work before that to know if I have an advantage or not. So let's see if I am able to do my work.

"That's not an advantage or disadvantage. That's part of the draw. That's part of the things that happen when you are No.1, No.2 and No.3.

"For example, at Wimbledon it was the other way. They changed. Now here is the opposite. Let's see what's going on."

Second seed Nadal opens his campaign against John Millman, who knocked Federer out in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows in 2018.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, who also upset Federer last season, and Fernando Verdasco are potential second and third-round opponents. 

Dominic Thiem – seeded fourth – could meet Nadal in the semi-final, in what would be a repeat of the French Open final, as well as an epic quarter-final from last season's US Open.

"He is the No.4 now. Every year he's improving," Nadal said of the 25-year-old Austrian.

"Already this year he won a Masters 1000 on hard. He played again the final in Roland Garros. Every day he is a very solid, and every year is more solid.

"He has everything to win important events. He already is winning important events. He's a very, very hard worker. Just a question of time that he achieve all his goals."

Roger Federer thinks being "knocked down" by Andrey Rublev in the Western & Southern Open prompted him to get his "act together" and could enhance his chances of winning the US Open.

Russian Rublev consigned the 20-time grand slam singles champion to a straight-sets defeat in the third round in Cincinnati last week.

Federer believes that early exit in his last tournament before the final grand slam of the year could prove to be a blessing in disguise as he eyes a first Flushing Meadows triumph for 11 years after losing a classic Wimbledon final to Novak Djokovic last month.

"What I'm very proud of is I've had a very consistent last year and a half, two years, ever since my back locked up on me in Montreal. I struggled here as well, struggled for quite a while." said the Swiss legend.

"I've been playing well. Playing well in slams recently, which has been great. I think also the win over Rafa [Nadal] in the semis was big for me. Also the finals, the way I played that in Wimbledon, is going to give me some extra confidence.

"I'm happy where my game is at. Cincinnati might be a good thing that I lost early, who knows. It's maybe one of those things that sometimes needs to happen, like when I won at the Australian Open, went to Dubai, lost first round in 2017, then went on to win Indian Wells and Miami.

"Maybe the same thing, I played a great Wimbledon. Needed to get knocked down in Cincy, get my act together, train hard. That's what I did. I'm ready for the US Open. The draw is out, see which qualifier I will play.

"It's going to be a tough tournament to win, no doubt about it. I feel like I'm part of that group who can do it."

For the vast majority of the 21st century, grand slam finals have largely been the domain of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Their dominance, shared somewhat with Andy Murray, has defined the modern era of the men's game. However, it has been most regularly interrupted at the US Open, which starts on Monday.

Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka have each prevailed in the past five years at Flushing Meadows, with Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin del Potro all reaching the final in that time.

The most likely outcome remains that the men's final will be contested by at least one of the big three but, ahead of the final major of 2019, we examine some of the contenders to gatecrash the showpiece.

Daniil Medvedev

The world number five is enjoying a breakthrough year and heads to Flushing Meadows as one of the form players on the ATP Tour. He reached successive finals at the Citi Open and Rogers Cup, easing past the likes of Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov en route to the showpiece of the latter.

His heavy 6-3 6-0 defeat to Nadal in that final may have provided cause for reticence. However, Medvedev continued his outstanding US hard-court swing by coming from a set down to defeat Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Western and Southern Open, before going on to beat David Goffin in the final.

His fightback against the best player in the world should raise confidence he can upset the established order. It will be tougher over five sets but on current form Medvedev appears the most credible threat to the big three.

Karen Khachanov

Khachanov's year has not been quite as impressive as his Russian compatriot Medvedev. However, he too resides in the top 10 and has a victory over Djokovic to his name, having beaten the Serbian in the Paris Masters final last year.

He was impressive in seeing off Stan Wawrinka, rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev at the Rogers Cup and showed signs he could form a grand slam challenge at his run to the quarter-finals of the French Open this year.

Marat Safin, the last Russian man to win a grand slam, was Khachanov's idol growing up. He has the game to potentially emulate his hero, but a 1-8 record against the big three will leave plenty sceptical of his prospects.

Dominic Thiem

Though not in the same vein of form as Medvedev, Thiem deserves his place on the list having been the most consistent challenger to Djokovic, Nadal and Federer in recent times.

He has reached the last two French Open finals, losing to Nadal on each occasion. However, he defeated Djokovic in five sets at Roland Garros this year and played at a level in the final that would have seen him victorious were he facing anyone other than the 'King of Clay'.

The hard court provides more of a level playing field and Nadal needed a tie-break to beat him in five sets in the quarter-final at Flushing Meadows in 2018. Thiem also holds a 4-2 record against Federer, whom he beat at Indian Wells this year. 

Eventually, Thiem's persistence in pushing this legendary trio to the limit will pay off and there is plenty of evidence to suggest the US Open could be the stage on which he reaps his rewards.

Roberto Bautista Agut

While the other four names on this list have their best years ahead of them, Bautista Agut is arguably enjoying an elongated peak.

He was a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, where he showed his endurance with three five-set victories and pushed Djokovic to four sets in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The 31-year-old has since found some consistency on the hard court, reaching the last eight in Montreal and Cincinnati, and came from a set down to beat Djokovic in Miami back in March.

That win, however, marked his only success against a big-three opponent. Bautista Agut has proven he can reach the latter stages of majors but, if the draw does not somehow open up for him, would need to overcome the history books to earn a first slam final berth.

Lucas Pouille

Pouille's thrilling 2016 fourth-round triumph over Nadal at Flushing Meadows had the look of a breakthrough moment for the Frenchman, but since then he has not been able to record a single victory over the Spaniard, Djokovic or Federer.

The 25-year-old does, however, seem to enjoy himself on the hard court, securing the best slam result of his career on the surface as he progressed to the last four at the Australian Open before running into a rampant Djokovic.

He beat Khachanov before being thumped by Djokovic in Cincinnati and, though he has endured an inconsistent year, the high-points Pouille has experienced should leave him with nobody to fear outside of the three favourites. 

Pouille is unquestionably an outsider, but if he can harness the form that saw him stun Nadal then he can at least afford to have hope of pulling off another shock and giving France a grand slam finalist to celebrate.

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