FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – With his one handed backhand and quick ability to attack the net, Roger Federer looked superior, almost like a super hero fighting a henchman early in the story.
And his dismantling of Santiago Giraldo, 6-4 6-3 6-2, may look like an easy win on paper, but it really added something to the Federer lore. He’s not just a super hero, he’s the Dark Knight of the Open.
Much like Christian Bale’s title character from the movies, Federer does his best work at night, under the lights when the pressure is on.
“[The crowd] can’t wander around to different courts and say, Okay, on Court 2 we have this going on; Louis Armstrong we have that happening,” said Federer, who with tonight’s win has tied Andre Aggasi tonight for most wins in majors at 224. “No avoiding that 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 here right now. Better don’t miss that next time because on TV everybody’s watching, in the stadium everybody saw it.
“So you do feel that pressure. Yes, you do. That’s why I think Giraldo did well tonight. Also you’re thinking about me, but think of the other guy who is playing a top guy in that stadium. It’s also not that easy. Surely he can swing freely, there’s nothing to lose, but also he does feel that big stage.”
Being Federer, who has seen it all, craves the excitement of the night in Queens. The Maestro said he likes the rock and roll atmosphere of the Open as much as tones of other tournaments.
“When you have some success, you actually start enjoying different types of atmospheres: loud, you know, crazy, to very proper and never applauding on a mistake like you have in Japan,” Federer said. “Then you go to England where they know exactly what is a good shot and what is a bad shot. Then you go to Switzerland where it’s also very proper again.
“So I like that, you know, difference we have. Music played on the change of ends. They’re showing all sorts of stuff on the big screens; whereas in other places it’s just complete silence. So I like that change.
“Here, this is a huge tournament which I like a lot and have had such amazing success that obviously every year I will come back here to New York I’ll feel that it’s a place that’s very special to me and where I usually do actually play my very best tennis.”
Federer feels this year’s Open may be a little different. The court speed in Flushing has always been known as notorious fast surface, but he sees it as a little slower this year.
“It’s definitely slower,” he said. “Obviously, night sessions always maybe play a touch slower than the day clearly. I really have the feeling conditions are slower this year than last year here at the Open.
“So it takes I think some getting used to. You’re not getting as many free points maybe with your serve. Maybe that was part of the inconsistent play I had early on in the first couple of sets.
“As the match went on, I think I started to get more solid and better, and that’s a good feeling to have. But the ball really gets used after a while, I have to say. I was quite surprised.”
Yet, this is Roger Federer and the Dark Knight of tennis is used to all surfaces no matter what the changes are. He attacked the net more in his match tonight, especially against Giraldo, whose best surface is clay, while also taking changes, simply because, well he’s better.
And isn’t that why the super hero always wins?
“Why am I successful?,” he pondered. “I guess because I’m a pretty good player and I’m usually the favorite when I go into these matches, so I expect myself to win. I should win these matches, thank God, and I more often do than don’t.”
The Dark Knight rises in the second round against Israeli Dudi Sela.