For the second straight round, Roger Federer was pushed to a fifth set at the 2017 U.S. Open. For the second straight round, Federer got the job done.
The third-seeded Swiss dispatched of Mikhail Youzhny in a 6-1, 6-7 (3), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 triumph that once again tested his fortitude. After breezing through the first set in just 26 minutes, Federer dropped the next two thanks to a series of uncharacteristic mistakes.
Much like he did in his first-round thriller with Frances Tiafoe, Federer struggled to find his backhand. He committed 68 unforced errors to Youzhny's 55, giving the 35-year-old Russian life during key moments of the match.
While Federer was understandably perplexed at points against Tiafoe, a 19-year-old against whom he'd played only once prior, there was little such reason for his struggles Thursday. Federer entered having won all 16 of his previous matchups against Youzhny and only dropped a set in four of them.
Entering Flushing Meadows with a chance to reclaim the world No. 1 ranking, Federer has looked little like the man who won two majors already this calendar year. This marks the first time he has ever gone to five sets in consecutive rounds to open a major.
“These five-set battles are actually quite a lot of fun and I feel quite warmed up by now,” Federer joked after the match, per Malika Andrews of the New York Times.
Federer got a little bit of a break when Youzhny cramped up when trying to reach a lob shot early in the fifth set. The Russian never appeared to have his full range of motion back.
Youzhny will also be kicking himself for his own mistakes. He recorded eight double faults to Federer's two, three of which came in the fifth set. Federer won half of his return points in the fifth and dropped only two on his serve to close Youzhny out.
"I haven't played a lot of guys with cramps in the last decade or so and the rules have changed, you're not allowed to get any help from the physio," Federer said, per Piers Newbery of BBC. "We've played a bunch of times and this was probably our best match."
Federer will face off against Feliciano Lopez in the third round. He has also never lost to Lopez, winning 12 straight matches.