Five-time US Open champion Roger Federer will look to continue his challenge for a sixth title in New York when he takes on the mercurial, but dangerous Nick Kyrgios. Federer has endured a difficult few months, but did win the Australian Open at the start of the year and could yet finish the year as #1. Kyrgios, meanwhile, has had controversy knock at his door again, though this time it was not of his own making. But who will reach the second week?
Federer and Kyrgios have met three times so far in a head-to-head the Swiss leads narrowly 2-1. All three matches have been exceptionally tight. The first, in 2015 in Madrid, went the way of Kyrgios as he edged out Federer 6-7 7-6 7-6, winning the final tiebreak 14-12. Federer had his revenge two years later in Miami in the semifinals where he won 7-6 6-7 7-6. He then won again in Stuttgart earlier this year, 6-7 6-2 7-6.
Path to the third round
Federer arrived in New York off the back of a bruising loss to Djokovic in the final in Cincinnati. But he went some way to putting that match behind him in the first round where he took on Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan. It proved a mismatch and Federer cruised into the second round a 6-2 6-2 6-4 winner. There he faced Benoit Paire and though he was far from his clinical best, he was broadly untroubled in scoring a 7-5 6-4 6-4 win, his seventh without reply against the Frenchman.
Kyrgios began his US Open campaign with a slightly unconvincing 7-5 2-6 6-4 6-2 win over Radu Albot. He then finished strongly to best Pierre-Hugues Herbert 4-6 7-6 6-3 6-0. But one suspects the fallout from that match will rumble on for sometime yet. For with Kyrgios trailing and hardly trying, umpire Mohamed Layhani stepped out of the chair to talk to Kyrgios. What exactly was said and what effect it had remain unknown, but it was certainly a notable incident.
How do they match up?
As may be deduced from the fact that eight of the nine sets they have played have been decided by tiebreaks, both men are excellent servers. They also share similar attributes when stepping to the line. Though neither can regularly summon the sort of power that John Isner and Kevin Anderson possess, they are incredibly accurate and are unquestionably the two best spot-servers in the game. So far in New York, Kyrgios is leading the ace race between the two, with 39 to Federer’s 19.
But, the Australian has hit a lot of double faults. 26 to be exact, which is 18 more than Federer. That does not bode well for Kyrgios, as he is more reliant on his serve in this matchup than Federer. But both have been loose of the ground so far. Against Herbert Kyrgios hit 36 winners, but he also made 44 unforced errors. Federer encountered a similar problem against Paire, landing 27 winners but at the cost of 39 unforced. If either can tighten up, it will hand them a massive advantage.
This is Federer’s biggest test of the tournament so far by some distance. With the greatest of due respect to Nishioka and Paire, neither really had the quality to beat the Swiss. But Kyrgios does. In his serve he has a weapon to reduce even the mighty, and he has given Federer more than a little trouble in the past. He should also be up for the challenge, with him usually performing well on the big stage. But, in the vital moments, it's hard not to back Federer. Expect him to win in four.