NEW YORK (Reuters) - Playing two five-set matches may not be regarded as the best way to start a grand slam campaign, but it might be just what Roger Federer needed to get into the groove at the U.S. Open, according to former world number one Mats Wilander.
The Swiss, chasing a record-extending 20th major singles title in New York after winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon this season, ran into a spot of bother when he was two sets to one down in the second round against Russian Mikhail Youzhny on Thursday.
But Federer prevailed 6-1 6-7(3) 4-6 6-4 6-2 to record his 17th victory against Youzhny in as many encounters.
“He was playing a guy he had always beaten and the first five games went in 20 minutes, all his shots were in. Then towards the end of the second set, Youzhny changed his game and hit harder and Federer was caught off guard,” Swede Wilander, at Flushing Meadows as an analyst for Eurosport, said in his daily chat with Reuters.
“It’s not easy to go from ‘I‘m gonna win easy’ to suddenly having to focus. It took him a while to do that.”
But that might be a blessing in disguise for the third seed, who needed match practice after not playing for two weeks because of back problems.
“He was a bit in trouble but it’s not that bad. Since he did not play for two weeks, I would not be too worried,” said Wilander.
“He looked like he was still a bit cautious but now he knows that he can leave the worry of his back behind him and focus on playing solid tennis for a whole match.”
Being pushed to the limit in early matches is not something Federer is used to but he will take it as a confidence booster.
“It’s a new experience for him,” Wilander added.
”I‘m not concerned at all. Maybe it is better in a way. Emotionally it will help him. He would probably have preferred to play six perfect sets (in his first two matches) but I think he will put a positive spin on this.
“I can’t remember being disappointed after losing a match. He will gain confidence from the fact that he has won the points that he had to win at the end of the sets. I think it’s a positive start for him.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ian Ransom