Roger Federer did little to encourage the thought that he could win an incredible three Grand Slam titles this year after labouring through his US Open first round against teenage opposition.
An unlikely favourite at the age of 36, Federer had to reach within himself to see off the challenge of 19 year-old American Francis Tiafoe and win 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.
The Swiss master admitted that recent back issues played on his mind as he got off to a sluggish start with his movement seemingly impeded before suppressing one of the current crop of exciting young American talents.
‘My preparation was compromised so I’m happy,’ said Federer, who now meets Mikhail Youznhy or Blaz Kavcic, not theoretically the most intimidating of opposition.
‘I had a bit of a slow start today. I was a bit worried with my back issues but I was able to let go.’ The noise generated by spectators with the roof of the Arthur Ashe Stadium closed seemed to bother him at first, as it had done Rafael Nadal earlier in the day.
He insisted: ‘I’m extremely well. I wasn’t here last year and to get through five sets you have to be strong. It was exciting and that’s why I came to New York, to go through these emotions.’