New York, Aug 31 (DPA) Roger Federer will take aim at a sixth straight US Open title Monday, playing a memory-making first-round match against an 18-year-old American wildcard with no Grand Slam experience.
The mismatch looks to be all in Federer’s favour as he faces nervous teen Devin Britton, ranked outside the top 500 and taking to the court at a major for the first time.
While he expects a victory, the 28-year-old Federer recalled a similar situation in his own tennis life in 1998 against Andre Agassi.
“I went through maybe something a little bit similar when I played Agassi when I was 17 in Basel, in my hometown where I used to be a ballboy,” said the world number one hoping to become the first in modern history to win six straight titles in New York.
“I played Agassi – that was disbelief,” admitted the 15-time Grand Slam singles champion. “I knew I still had a lot of work to do from the baseline, and I was playing maybe one of the best players of all time in that match.
“I was in shock, but you try to enjoy it and try to put in a good fight,” he said of the 6-3, 6-2 defeat.
Federer will have all the edges in the first-round contest. “A best-of-five-set match is maybe something Britton has never played before.
“But in tennis you always have a chance. If you think the guy’s not to make a game, it’s absurd. That’s how tennis is. You have to be very careful. I have to make sure I put in a good performance.”
After seizing his number one ranking back from Rafael Nadal by winning Wimbledon, Federer is already under some pressure during the fortnight if he wants to keep his longtime honour.
The spot will remain in his possession by reaching the fourth round. But any early failure would throw the race open again, with new number two Andy Murray and number three Nadal then in with a chance.
Both Murray and Nadal could take the ranking by winning the title- should Federer fall in the third round.
2001 New York winner Lleyton Hewitt starts against Brazil’s number 106 Thiago Alves, with the Australian now back just outside the top 30 a year after hip surgery.
German Bjorn Phau will try and derail Wimbledon finalist and fifth seed Andy Roddick in their opening-day meeting.
In women’s play, second-seeded Serena Williams and number three Venus Williams open, with holder Serena facing American Alexa Glatch, whom she she beat last spring in Miami.
Venus gets Russian Vera Dushevina, while 2005 winner Kim Clijsters returns to Grand Slam play for the first time since her 2007 retirement, taking on Viktoriya Kutuzova of the Ukraine.