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U.S. OPEN TENNIS • The Wet Patch That Was Wednesday • Day 3 Matches Played Indoors • Federer Talks About The Council

By Alix Ramsay

The USTA must have been happy even if the Mighty One wasn’t. For the second time in two rounds, the GOAT that is Roger Federer dropped the opening set on his way to an eventually routine victory at the US Open.

Why would the USTA have been happy? Because it was raining. And for all the money that they have poured into the roof over the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums, when it drizzles over the third day of their event, it leaves an awful lot of people without any tennis to watch.

Those with tickets to the biggest tennis court in the world got to see Rodge flap and fluff for a set against Damir Dzumhur before getting his act together and winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 22 minutes. Given that in their only previous meetings he had absolutely mullered poor Dzumhur in a little over an hour at Wimbledon and a little under an hour and a half at the French Open, both times in 2015, this extended match was an unexpected bonus for the USTA. At least the punters on Ashe would have been happy.

Rodge, though, was less than impressed. To paraphrase Lady Bracknell in the Importance of Being Earnest – yes, we are trying to be flash – to lose one set in the early round of a grand slam may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. And our Rodge knew it.

“I got exactly what I expected from both guys,” The Great one said. “I knew what Nagal was going to give me. I knew what Dzumhur was going to give me. But I didn’t expect to hit 15 to 20 unforced errors, which is basically in the entire set just sort of donated.

“But look, they came out and they were well prepared and got me to do that. But I clearly have to play better from the get-go.”

But even if he has looked a little ragged so far, it is not what Fed does on court that matters at this point; it is what he says. He has survived both scares so far – no worries, then. He is in to the third round; his first week will be done if he can get past either Dan Evans or Lucas Pouille on Friday and then we will be into a completely different tournament. It is what happens in the second week of a slam that matters, not the first.

But back to what the Mighty Fed was saying. He is now back on the player council at the ATP and, by the sounds of it, he is happy about that. While he and Novak Djokovic were not on speaking terms earlier in the year – Rodge was having a hard time catching up with the world No.1 when he wanted to discuss important matters – they must now talk on a regular basis. Clearly, it is not that the old GOAT wants to take over the world now that he is on the player council; he just wants to be kept informed.

“Being back on the council is good because I get all the information,” he said. “I think that is important for me to give a proper opinion. It also brings Novak, Rafa, and me closer together, naturally, to be in a room. But then also away from it, we can’t prepare for meetings like amateurs and just not talk to each other and then walk up to the meetings and just, like, So what’s going on? And start taking decisions and voting and then it gets personal.

“So we need to be well prepared, and for that we need to meet and talk, and we will do that moving forward. But I thought the first meeting was pretty good. It was okay.”

The first meeting with the Big Three as part of the player council was just before the Open began and it took a little over two hours. The meeting – sans Roger and Rafa – prior to Wimbledon took more than seven hours. At which point four council members resigned, fed up with personal vendettas and endless arguing in circles.

Maybe now that the Big Three have to face each other off the court as well as on it, they will prepare as they would for a match: game plan in place, strategy sorted and no faffing about when it comes to getting a result. And Fed has made it clear what he wants to achieve.

“I do believe the challenger players and also maybe qualifying and second-round loser should get more [money],” he said. “So I think if there should be increases it shouldn’t be at the top anymore. I feel like we have reached a pretty good level there.

“I think that’s going to be what we’re going to fight for. And if we want prize money increases, I know the tournaments don’t find it very sexy giving it to first-round quallies or second-round quallies and all these things, or Challengers. But the tour, it would be nice if the players could also survive on the Challenger tour in the lower ranks and not just at the very top.

“Even though I’m all for it shouldn’t be a ‘losers’ tour’, but they also sacrifice a lot of their time and they work equally hard as we do at the top. That hopefully we’re going to get that right hopefully, as well, in the next sort of five to ten years.”

His tennis is still trying to catch up with his ambitions for the US Open but the Mighty Fed’s plans for the future of his sport are looking as sharp as a tack. Over to you Mr Djokovic, the president of the ATP player council.

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