Federer offers some worldly advice
NEW YORK -- That Roger Federer won Thursday in Arthur Ashe Stadium hardly came as a surprise.
He was playing Israel's Dudi Sela and had never, ever lost a second-round match in a Grand Slam event. Today, we are happy to report, Federer is now 44-0 in the second round in his 50 major appearances. Federer won 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in a mere 77 minutes.
"I just think I was superior today," Federer said succinctly.
Even though he just turned 30, that's usually how it is for Federer. The victory was his 225th in a major, breaking a tie with Andre Agassi for second. He's only eight behind the immortal Jimmy Connors; he will likely pass him in four months at the Australian Open.
Federer's consistent excellence seems to bring a new milestone every tournament. For example: With a victory here that almost seems within reach, Federer would set an Open era record with six U.S. Open championships and become the first player ever to win six titles in two majors.
With age comes responsibility, and Federer is taking his role in the game quite seriously.
After beating Sela, goaded by an on-court announcer, Federer offered the crowd a serving demonstration worthy of a teaching professional. The toss, he said, was critical and compared his grip to holding a hammer.
Federer prides himself on keeping up with the game and connecting with young players when they emerge on the scene.
Usually, when athletes are asked if they have a preference of opponents in the next round, the answer is a safe "no." But Thursday, Federer said he would rather play 18-year-old Bernard Tomic than No. 27 seed Marin Cilic, who were playing a later match.
"I think I'd like to play Bernard for the first time because I've never played him before," Federer said. "I like playing the new generation coming up. I've played [Ryan] Harrison at the beginning of the season in Indian Wells, and then I practiced with [Grigor] Dimitrov, [Milos] Raonic, [Richard] Berankis, all those new guys coming through.
"I've never actually hit with Tomic before, so that would be nice."
Nevertheless, Federer gave a pretty accurate scouting report.
"It's [a] slightly unusual playing style just because he's tall. He likes to play from the baseline; doesn't quite maybe use his serve yet as much as he could, like [Juan Martin] Del Potro in the beginning.
"I think he's going through an evolution right now as a player, and it's interesting times for him. He's learning basically every day that goes by on the tennis court ... and it's fun to be that age right now."
He sounded like a father.
Rafa: "I was misquoted in my own book." Rafael Nadal caused a bit of a commotion and generated a ton of headlines recently with the revelation in his new autobiography "Rafa" that a congenital bone problem in the bridge of his left foot led him to -- "without appetite for life" -- mull switching to golf in 2005.
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It's a good story, but Rafa says it's rubbish.
In a pre-tournament interview with ESPN, Nadal laughed when asked about the potential career change.
"That's not true," he said. "Well, really, the book came out, but that thing about the golf sounds a little bit stupid. I cannot be a golf pro starting out at 19. You have to start out as a kid.
"My dad said, 'If you can't play tennis you can just play golf.' But not as a pro."
Charles Barkley similarly claimed he was misquoted in his autobiography, "Outrageous."
Rafa plays Nicolas Mahut, he of the epic 2010 Wimbledon match, in the second round Friday.
British humor: Andy Murray doesn't get much credit for having a sense humor. Maybe he should.
"I was a little bit nervous at the start, making some bad decisions," he said after beating Somdev Devvarman on Wednesday. "Try being a British player going into a Grand Slam. It's not that easy."
Maybe he was only half kidding.
As evidence, we offer this delightful sentence from The Guardian: "If Murray could fillet this performance, throwing away those moments that looked as if he might have been having a hit on a nearby beach, he would send a message through the 2011 U.S. Open that his return to form is no aberration."
Next up for Murray: Dutchman Robin Haase.
Temp job? Novak Djokovic, who has been No. 1 for less than two months, has looked invincible this season, but he doesn't sound convinced that he's going to stay in that spot.
"I don't think it's over," Djokovic said this week. "Look, both of them, they're playing incredible tennis still. Even though maybe Roger didn't have the year as successful as he had in [the] last five, six years. I still think he's playing really well. He's, I'm sure, very much motivated to come back to the No. 1 of the world. From all of us, he knows the best how it is to win the major events because he's the record-holder. He has 16 Grand Slams, has a fantastic career, and so I'm sure he wants to come back there.
"And Rafa is [an] unbelievable player that is very complete, that can perform equally well on all surfaces. He has proven that. We have played in five finals this year. I mean, I got the edge on all these matches, but that doesn't mean I will win every single next match that we play.
"The fact is that they have been the two most dominant players in the world. Even though I'm No. 1, they are the best, two most successful players that are active in today's tennis."
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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