NEW YORK — Despite some of the heartbreak he’s suffered here the last few years, Roger Federer has always loved these trips to New York.
Top-seeded Federer played up to his billing Monday night, dispatching American Donald Young 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to open his quest for a sixth U.S. Open title, which would be an Open-era record.
“The U.S. Open, for me, was always, I don’t want to say easy, but very natural and I’ve always looked forward to it in a big way,” Federer said.
Possibly because of matches like Monday’s, in which 20,000-plus fans cheered him on during a breezy-but-comfortable night for a win that took only 1 hour, 34 minutes.
“It’s a place that brings out the best in me,” Federer said.
With his Wimbledon title and the silver medal at the Olympics earlier this summer, Federer returned to No. 1 for the first time in 25 months.
His first career match against Young was a predictable affair, with Young trying to force the issue by coming to the net and Federer taking advantage of his younger competitor’s impatience. He finished with 27 winners and 24 unforced errors, compared to 17 and 30 for Young.
Young fell to 3-22 on the season, including a 17-match losing streak earlier this year.
“It’s a lot of pressure because obviously, I’m going into this match as a big favorite,” Federer said. “But Donald put up a great fight. He’s had a rough year and I’m glad to see he’s playing better. And for me, it continues.”
There were times when it seemed as if it would never end, most notably in 2008, when Federer won his fifth consecutive U.S. Open.
A year later, he was two points away from No. 6 but Juan Martin del Potro rallied for a five-set victory. The last two years, Federer had a pair of match points against Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, but was unable to convert them.
Federer said he re-dedicated himself after the last loss. This year, he comes in as the top seed, but he considers Djokovic, the defending champion, to be the favorite.
“It’s where he feels most comfortable,” Federer said of Djokovic, the No. 2 seed.
Not to say Federer isn’t comfortable on the hard courts in New York, too.
“The distractions are a challenge — the wind, the humidity, the early matches, the really late, late matches,” he said. “That takes some getting used to. But experience can help with that, too.”
Coming in, Federer broke the record he shared with Pete Sampras by earning the top seed for a Grand Slam for the 23rd time. Neither that nor his regained status as No. 1 in the world will mean so much to him, however, if he doesn’t close out his time in New York with his 18th Grand Slam title.
“I’m happy I’m the world No. 1 right now but it’s not what drives me at the U.S. Open,” Federer said. “It’s actually trying to get that title or get closer to that title.”