Roger Federer needed a second successive five-set match to record his 80th victory at the US Open, seeing off fellow veteran Mikhail Youzhny on Thursday.
Federer, chasing a record sixth US Open and third major of the year, came through against two-time semi-finalist Youzhny – in a clash featuring opponents with a combined age of 71 – 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 4-6 6-4 6-2 in three hours and eight minutes on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The 36-year-old Swiss improved his perfect record against the former world No 8 from Russia to 17-0, but only after the world No 101 suffered from cramp early in the fifth set.
Federer, with a 20th Grand Slam title in his sights, needed five sets to get past US 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe in his opening match on Tuesday.
He was not quite himself for much of the match, committing 68 unforced errors and appearing slowed by a bad back that he tweaked earlier in August, but victory over Youzhny, whom he first played 17 years ago, helped him set up a third-round showdown against Feliciano Lopez of Spain. His record against Lopez is just as solid – 12-0.
“It wasn’t always like this,” said the third seed. “I won in straights or lost in straights. These five-set battles are actually quite a lot of fun. I feel quite warmed up by now.”
“I haven’t played a lot of guys with cramps in the last decade so it was somewhat new. It was hard to watch. I was feeling for Mikhail. We go back to the ’98 juniors here, we played each other in doubles. We’ve played a bunch of times and this was probably our best match.”
Spain’s 31st seed Lopez beat compatriot Fernando Verdasco 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1 to level their head to head at four victories apiece.