NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) — Roger Federer, meet Andre Agassi.
The third-seeded Federer got his first chance to play a match on the 2011 version of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night, beating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the second round at the U.S. Open. The victory allowed Federer to tie Agassi for the second-most Grand Slam wins in the Open era, with 224.
Only Jimmy Connors, with 233, won more.
Federer said he wasn’t aware of that mark.
“I’ve played many Slams in a row already. I’m healthy. It’s just another way of saying, ‘Roger, you’ve been doing many right things throughout your career,'” he said. “It gives me good satisfaction and points me in the right direction, I think.”
Federer can tell that playing conditions at the U.S. Open are slower than last year. He wonders whether — for the good of the game — it would be more interesting if they were quicker.
“The issue for me more is: Maybe did they make a mistake? Maybe they did paint the court a bit too rough. It’s just unfortunate, I think, that maybe all the Slams are too equal,” the 16-time major champion said. “I think they should feel very different to the Australian Open, and now I don’t feel it really does.”
Federer improved to 12-0 in first-round matches at Flushing Meadows, and 57-6 overall at a venue where he’s lifted the champion’s trophy five times.
The Swiss star, who turned 30 on Aug. 8, is trying to win at least one Grand Slam title for what would be a record ninth consecutive year. He also would like to become the first 30-something man to win a major tournament since Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open.
Federer has won each major trophy at least once, so he knows the ins and outs of the various Grand Slam surfaces — the hard courts at the Australian Open and U.S. Open, clay courts at the French Open, and grass courts at Wimbledon.
He showed a few signs of rust early under the lights against Giraldo, losing serve three times in the first two sets. Federer thought that might have been connected to his sense that the court played “definitely slower” than at the hard-court tuneup tournaments at Cincinnati and Montreal this month — and slower than in New York in 2010.
“It takes, I think, some getting used to. You’re not getting as many free points, maybe, with your serve,” Federer said. “Maybe that was part of the inconsistent play I had early on in the first couple of sets.”
Explaining how the conditions felt Monday, Federer said: “The night session just feels like you can take huge cuts at the ball, you can run everything down. It’s great for tennis, but I’m not sure if it’s really what the game needs. The game needs different, you know, speed at Slams and so forth. I don’t feel we quite have that at the moment, you know, especially if the U.S. Open is getting slower.”
On the other hand, Federer noted that he thinks that will lead to “amazing points.”
“It’s going to be super athletic, which I think is fun,” he added. “So it’s all good.”
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