NEW YORK (Reuters) - Roger Federer showed that time was still on his side as the Swiss master rang the closing bell on Monday’s opening day at the U.S. Open tennis championship with a quick victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Third seed Federer, who turned 30 earlier this month, completed a clockwork 6-4 6-3 6-2 win over 56th-ranked Colombian Santiago Giraldo to the delight of the Flushing Meadows night crowd.
The 106-minute sweep was the first step in Federer’s quest to add to his grand slam record of 16 men’s singles titles with a sixth U.S. Open crown.
A sixth title in New York would also break his tie with Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras for the most since tennis turned professional in 1968.
“It was a great atmosphere, great ovation when I walked out,” said Federer, a favorite of the New York crowds. “I really enjoyed it.
“It’s always one of those moments I guess you train for ... the first night at the U.S. Open.”
Federer had little trouble disposing of clay court specialist Giraldo but the Swiss was not at his precision best, committing 35 unforced errors.
He looked shaky on serve-and-volley points by winning just one of six, while cashing in on 23 of 37 advances to the net.
Federer said the new surface at Flushing Meadows played slower than before and that he consciously had decided to work on coming to the net in the match.
“As the match went on, I think I started to get more solid and better, and that’s a good feeling to have,” he said.
Federer, who is also eyeing an Open victory to extend a remarkable string of winning at least one grand slam title in eight straight years, said playing at night provided a sort of sweet pressure.
“They can’t wander around to different courts,” the world number three said about knowing that all eyes at National Tennis Center nights were fixed on the marquee match.
“No avoiding the limelight. You do feel that pressure as well. When you miss a stupid volley, you go like, ‘Yeah, everybody saw it. I’m a bit of an idiot right now. Better don’t miss that next time because on TV everybody’s watching.’”
The Open is Federer’s last chance to add a 2011 slam victory to his prodigious resume after losing to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals in Australia, finishing runner-up to Rafa Nadal at the French and falling in the quarter-finals to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon.
Federer next plays Israeli Dudi Sela, who battled back from two sets down to beat Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil.
Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Ian Ransom