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Roger Federer Sort Of Out Of Sorts With The Press • Bad Scheduling Due To Rain?

By Alix Ramsay

Roger is himself again. Almost.

The Great One is through to the fourth round of the US Open after the simplest of simple 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 wins over Dan Evans on Friday. No sign of any slow starts, no sign of any unforced errors – well, not so many as to be a concern – and no sign of frailty. He was very, very good and poor old Dan could not get near him.

But it was afterwards that Fed became very un-Federerlike.

The match was scheduled for noon in the Arthur Ashe Stadium – first match on. Rodge had last been there two days before, playing under the roof while the rain washed out all the day session encounters on the outside courts, including Dan’s meeting with Lucas Pouille.

On Thursday, as Fed went through his usual routines and then relaxed with his family in the city, Dan was sweating and grafting his way through three hours and 10 minutes against his French foe, taking four draining sets to reach the next round.

On the British TV coverage, it was suggested that Rodge had asked for a daytime match and an early start – and that he had got what he asked for despite the fact that Dan had been playing until 6pm the day before. In a shock development, the British press pack followed this up (we’re good like that). And then Rodge exploded.

“I don’t remember that I asked for something,” he harrumphed. “Yeah, yeah. It’s maybe nice to be out of the sun, as well, I don’t know, I thought. But I definitely didn’t do it intentionally. I don’t even know if the team asked for day. I know there was questions to have a preference.

“But that doesn’t mean like, “Roger asks, Roger gets.” Just remember that, because I have heard this shit too often now. I’m sick and tired of it, that, apparently, I call the shots. The tournament and the TV stations do.

“We can give our opinion. That’s what we do. But I’m still going to walk out even if they schedule me at 4:00 in the morning.”

This was not the Federer, the diplomatic Swiss, we have known for the best part of two decades. What was going on?

To be fair, he had admitted that it was not the most even-handed way of treating the players. Then again, a bloke with 20 grand slam titles to his name does tend to play on the bigger courts and the bigger courts tend to be the ones with the rooves. As Dan, the world No.58, pointed out: “You think a guy who’s my ranking has any say in that?”. But Fed knew he had been given an unfair advantage.

“Regardless of when he finished it was always going to be a competitive advantage for me,” Fed said. “So there you have it. Now, is it a big difference if we play at 12:00 or 2:00? Not really. But I think at some stage every hour might matter.

“You could definitely argue that the scheduling was not in his favour. But it’s anyway not fair for me to play my match under the roof, get it done, sit back, relax the next day while he’s battling out a four-hour or a three-hour match, whatever it is, against Pouille. The problem already starts there.

“That’s tennis. It’s entertainment, and the show must go on. I’ve lost maybe matches this way. I’ve won some this time. Luck was on my side. There you have it. So, yeah, I understand if Danny is, like, a little bit frustrated.”

Dan had no issue with Fed – indeed, they have something of a bond. In the Spring, he was invited over to Switzerland to hit with Fed for three days and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Amazed by how simple the Mighty One keeps things in training, he thought it could be a great example and template for the brains trust that tries to tennis back home in Blighty. No, Dan was not complaining; he had just been beaten, and well beaten, by a much better player.

“I guess he has every shot,” he said with a wry grin, “so it’s not ideal to have an opponent that has every shot.

“Him being totally fresh and me, you know, battling yesterday, didn’t get out of here until probably going on 6:00, just complete polar opposites, isn’t it? And that is just to try and beat him feeling tired, stiff, playing four sets yesterday, it’s near on impossible.

“But I actually thought he played pretty much, you know, no-error tennis, I thought.”

Dan was right. Rodge dropped just six points on his own serve in the first hour of the match – and it only lasted  80 minutes in all, the fastest completed men’s match of the tournament so far – and while Dan did break the Federer serve once, his moment of glory was short lived: Fed broke straight back and ran away with the rest of the third set.

“There is no shame in losing to Roger, to Rafa, to those guys, Novak,” Dan said. “If you come up against them it’s unlucky, isn’t it? Or you’re real far in the tournament. And this time it’s just unlucky.”

Dan was unlucky, Fed was over his fit of pique and the tournament was ticking along nicely. Roger was himself again.

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