Roger Federer eases through opener

Updated: August 27, 2013, 10:16 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- At this point in his career, Roger Federer recognizes the importance of a little extra work.

That's why the owner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, and the man who spent more weeks ranked No. 1 than any other, was out there on a U.S. Open practice court late Tuesday afternoon, putting in some training time shortly after finishing off a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over 62nd-ranked Grega Zemlja of Slovenia in the first round.

At 32, at his lowest ranking, No. 7, in more than a decade, coming off a stunningly early exit at the previous major tournament -- one of a series of newsworthy losses lately -- Federer is OK with making some concessions. He insists his passion for tennis is still there.

"I'm in a good spot right now," Federer said. "I want to enjoy it as long as it lasts."

He made it sound, though, as if it isn't as easy to enjoy things the way his results have been going.

Federer entered Tuesday 32-11, a .744 winning percentage that doesn't sound too bad, until you consider his career mark at the start of this season was .816, and he's had years where he went 81-4 (.953). and 92-5 (.948). He's only won one tournament in 2013, which would be great for some guys, but Federer topped 10 titles three times, and hasn't won fewer than three in any season since 2001.

"Clearly, when you win everything, it's fun. That doesn't necessarily mean you love the game more. You just like winning, being on the front page, lifting trophies, doing comfortable press conferences. It's nice. But that doesn't mean you really, actually love it, love it," said Federer, whose streak of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals ended with a second-round defeat at Wimbledon against an opponent ranked 116th. "That maybe shines through maybe more in times when you don't play that well. For me, I knew it -- winning or losing, practice court or match court -- that I love it."

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic saved seven of eight break points to start with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 victory over former junior world No. 1, Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.

The victory took only 82 minutes for Djokovic, seeking his second title and fourth straight final at Flushing Meadows. It was a quiet evening at Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the packed crowd barely cheered during the most routine of matches.

One of the few exciting moments came on the first point of the third set, when Djokovic lobbed Berankis and Berankis replied with a backward shot between his legs that Djokovic calmly flicked away for a volley winner.

The top-seeded Serb hit 28 winners, with only nine unforced errors.

"I played every point like it's a match point," Djokovic said.

No. 5 Tomas Berdych and No. 10 Milos Raonic also picked up straight-set victories.

America's top two men, John Isner and Sam Querrey, each won their first-round matches Tuesday. No. 13 seed Isner beat Filippo Volandri of Italy 6-0, 6-2, 6-3, and No. 26 seed Querrey eliminated Guido Pella of Argentina 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

When Isner lost a first-round match in Montreal earlier this month, he dropped to No. 22, marking the first time no American man was listed in the top 20 since the start of the ATP computer rankings in 1973. Isner reached the final the next week in Cincinnati to move back into the top 20.

Querrey fell out of the top 20 at the end of July. He hasn't been past the third round in a Grand Slam since the 2010 U.S. Open.

American men went 5-1.

Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz felt as if a knife were stabbing him in his right side every time he tried to serve. The 14th-seeded Pole hurt his lower back three days before his first-round match at the U.S. Open, and he lost in straight sets to qualifier Maximo Gonzalez on Tuesday.

Gonzalez, ranked 247th, advanced with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory. The 30-year-old Argentine hadn't won a main draw match on the ATP Tour since April 2011.

"I couldn't jump," Janowicz said. "I couldn't make a service movement. It's still better than yesterday."

He had a painkiller injection Monday, which allowed him to rotate to hit his backhand. But he described his serve during his match as "a push." At one point in the third set, he even tried one underhand.

Janowicz took an injury timeout in the second set for a trainer to massage his back.

Janowicz had never been past the third round at a major tournament before his run at Wimbledon, which ended with a loss to eventual champion Andy Murray. The combustible 22-year-old fell in the first round at Flushing Meadows last year in his only previous appearance in the U.S. Open.

He had 11 double-faults and 53 unforced errors Tuesday.

Joining Janowicz on the way out were No. 15 Nicolas Almagro, No. 25 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 28 Juan Monaco.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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