Monday, August 27, 2012

Federer Wins Easily; After a Sluggish Start, So Does Clijsters

Roger Federer was his effortless self Monday in the first round of the United States Open. He was never threatened as he dismantled Donald Young, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, to stretch his record in Open night matches to 22-0.
 “It makes a lot of fun,” Federer said of playing at night. “It is a lot of pressure since I’m going out as the big favorite to win.”

Federer’s play was swift, his backhand winners crushing. After winning his seventh Wimbledon singles title, Federer, 31, has regained his stature as the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

For the 22-year-old Young, this season has been disastrous. He had lost 17 consecutive matches and was ranked 81st entering the Open. Young has won only three matches all year.

“You look at it and you see yourself at the second line, and you don’t expect that,” Young said of drawing Federer in the first round.

Young, who reached the fourth round of the Open last year, walked onto the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium wearing yellow headphones. His plan was to not beat himself up mentally. Many players have had similar missions against Federer. A lot of them have failed once Federer makes difficult winners look easy.

Young began the match strong. But once Federer broke his serve to go up, 4-3, in the first set, Young never recovered. Federer won 83 percent of the points on his first serve, and several of his service games required mere minutes to complete.

Young often yelled at himself in frustration and anger, something he had done all year. He shook his head a number of times as his new coach, Roger Smith, watched closely.

Federer, never giving much emotion, noticed how Young, even in defeat, played well at times.

“I’m happy to see he’s playing better,” Federer said of Young. “I think now he has to work on getting the right conditioning. I hope he takes advantage of it because he has a great game.”

CLIJSTERS KEEPS CAREER ALIVE Kim Clijsters, the three-time United States Open champion, remained calm in the moment as the crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium cheered on a young American player it had probably never seen before. Victoria Duval, playing in her first Open, had surprised the fans by winning three consecutive games to lead Clijsters in the first set, 3-2.

Before the match Clijsters, 29, joked that she was almost twice as old as the 16-year-old Duval, who said she hardly slept on the eve of the Open. But Clijsters had her own nerves to overcome. She knew this was the final tournament of her career.

Clijsters settled down, found her rhythm and eventually figured out Duval to win, 6-3, 6-1, in the first round.

“It was a special occasion for her, but she did well,” Clijsters said. “I was nervous maybe just as much as she was. It doesn’t get any easier the longer you play.”

Clijsters, who missed last year’s Open with an abdominal injury, extended her winning streak in the tournament to 22 matches.

“It was very disappointing for me last year to not defend my title,” said Clijsters, who had won the Open the previous two years, and also in 2005. “It’s an honor to be playing in front of this crowd this year.”

Duval, who speaks like the teenager she is in a high-pitched voice, said she was grateful for the opportunity to play Clijsters, a player she said she grew up idolizing.

At times, Duval showed the agility and footwork that has made her a rising talent.

After Duval took the lead, Clijsters played closer to the baseline, allowing her to respond more quickly to Duval’s forehands. When Clijsters needed a point on serve, she went for aces.

Once she took command of the match, Clijsters sprayed forehand winner after forehand winner into the corners.

“I’ve always felt very comfortable on hard courts,” Clijsters said. “There are a lot of great emotions and positive feelings when I’m out here. I felt like I was playing a lot better in the second match. It’s good to be able to see my play go in the right direction.”


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