Roger Federer plays his first-round match at the 2017 US Open against Frances Tiafoe at Billie Jean National Tennis Center in New York City on Tuesday. Photo: CFPRoger Federer survived a five-set battle to defeat American teenager Frances Tiafoe and reach the US Open second round on Tuesday, keeping his bid for a record sixth New York title alive.
The 36-year-old Swiss, chasing his third major of the year and 20th of his career, prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 to avoid losing in the first round of a Slam for the first time since the 2003 French Open.
The fast and furious duel under the roof of Arthur Ashe Stadium was one of only nine matches to be completed as torrential rain swept 55 matches off Tuesday's schedule.
At times, Federer also looked as if he was about to disappear with the deluge, struggling with a back injury as well as the all-out assault of Tiafoe, the big-hearted 19-year-old son of immigrants from Sierra Leone.
But the veteran survived to register his 79th win in New York and set up a second-round match-up with either Russia's Mikhail Youzhny or Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia.
"I had a slow start. I was worried about the back injury. In the fifth set, it was a coin toss and it went my way tonight so I am very happy," said Federer, who finished with 17 aces, 41 winners and 56 unforced errors.
Federer missed the 2016 tournament with injury and was playing under the $150 million Ashe roof for the first time.
The win took Federer's first-round record in New York to 17-0 while world No.1 Rafael Nadal, a two-time champion in New York, went to 13-0 after the French Open winner claimed a 7-6 (8/6), 6-2, 6-2 win over Serbia's Dusan Lajovic.
The 31-year-old Spaniard was critical of the noise inside the Ashe stadium, which was amplified to distracting levels by the roof, which was closed for virtually the whole day.
"I understand it's a show, but under the roof we need to be a little bit more strict about the noise. All the noise stays inside, and this is difficult," said Nadal.
Japan's Naomi Osaka was one of just seven women to get through to the second round, aided by playing under the roof.
The world No.46, born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother, clinched a 6-3, 6-1 win over sixth seed Angelique Kerber, who became the first women's defending champion to lose in the first round since Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2005.
Kerber is the third top seed to go out in the first round after No.2 Simona Halep and seventh-seeded Johanna Konta lost Monday.
World No.1 Karolina Pliskova, the runner-up in 2016, eased past Poland's Magda Linette 6-2, 6-1.
French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko downed Spain's Lara Arruaberrena 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 in a match relocated from Court 17 to Ashe.