Roger Federer takes on Mikhail Youzhny for a place in the third round. After rain disrupted the second day at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Wednesday saw a hectic day of tennis, with Federer being one of only a few not to participate. But the great Swiss returns to court in the last match of the day session on Arthur Ashe. Both Federer and Youzhny have had great US Open’s in the past, with Youzhny twice a semi-finalist and Federer five times a champion. Who will come out on top in this clash?
Youzhny and Federer have met 16 times over their long careers. With Federer at 36 and Youzhny at 35, both are experienced veterans, and it’s no surprise as a result that their first match was 17 years ago. Federer won that one in Stockholm and has taken the other 15 victories as well. Youzhny has pushed Federer on several occasions, taking the first set in a number of their matches, but he has never been able to claim the victory. Seven of the meetings have been on outdoor hard courts, including in the final in Dubai. They have also played at the other three Majors but this will be their first meeting at the US Open.
Path to the second round
Federer began his US Open against Frances Tiafoe of the USA in a match that many expected him to win comfortably. However, Tiafoe proved quite a test for the world number three. Federer dropped his serve in the first game of the match and was unable to recover it, losing the first set. He rebounded to take the next two 6-2 6-1 and looked to be in a commanding position. But Tiafoe played a terrific fourth set, winning it 6-1. The fifth set proved to be a nervy affair, and it was Tiafoe who cracked first, hitting a poor drop shot to hand Federer a break. But when Federer served for it, the American rose up from the ashes to break back. That effort, however, seemed to take the last of Tiafoe’s energy, and he surrendered his serve again in the next game to lose the match.
Youzhny’s first round match against Blaz Kavcic was delayed by the rains that hit New York on Tuesday, preventing the Russian from taking to the court until the following day. Kavcic is ranked 13 spots above Youzhny in the rankings but looked outmatched in the first set, losing it 6-3. The Slovenian broke late in the second set to level the match but made little further impression. Youzhny took the third and fourth sets to move into the second round with a 6-3 5-7 6-4 6-3 winner.
How do they match up?
Both men play a similar style of all-court tennis. A key feature of both of their games is their ability to take the ball early off both wings. Federer and Youzhny also both hit one-handed backhands although Youzhny’s take back is fairly unorthodox. Where Federer has the unquestionable advantage is in serving. Whilst Federer is one of the best servers on tour, having hit over 10,000 aces in his career, Youzhny is comparatively poor. His second serve is reliable, but his first serve lacks power and accuracy, making aces scarce. He will, however, have to serve at his very best if he hopes to defeat Federer.
One interesting battle to watch will be between the two men’s slice backhands. The importance and use of slice backhands have declined over the past decade but it still remains a valuable shot. Federer and Youzhny are amongst the best practitioners of the shot in tennis.
Federer looked some way short of his best against Tiafoe with his back seemingly still an issue. However, he should still have enough to beat Youzhny. The Russian has had a fine career but couldn’t score a win over Federer when he was at the peak of his powers. And he is far from them now. Ranked down at 101st, retirement seems likely to be in the near future for Youzhny. With his game having declined as much as it has from his glory days, it is hard to see him beating Federer. All the more so with the Swiss having had an extra day of rest. Federer in straight sets.
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