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US Open: Hurting Novak Djokovic, slow-starting Roger Federer advance to next round

Defending champion Novak Djokovic fought through shoulder pain to reach the third round of the rain-hit US Open on Wednesday while Roger Federer shook off another slow start to advance.

Roger Federer overcame his second consecutive sluggish start to defeat Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 3-6 6-2 6-3 6-4 on Wednesday and advance to the US Open third round. World number 99 Dzumhur broke the five-times champion in his first two service games and raced out to a 4-0 lead before many in the crowd had found their seats at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which had its retractable roof closed due to rain.

Despite some shaky serving, the 27-year-old Dzumhur took the first set thanks to 17 unforced errors from the Swiss. The tide shifted in the first game of the second set, however, when Federer saved a breakpoint at 30-40 following a wild rally during which both players race from corner to corner before Dzumhur sent a forehand into the net.

From there Federer’s superior serving carried the day as he finished with 16 aces to the Sarajevo native’s two and thumped a rocket that Dzumhur could not return on match point to clinch victory.

Federer, however, has looked vulnerable at the tournament. He dropped the opening set of his first-round match against qualifier Sumit Nagal and while he may get away with slow starts in the early rounds, he will need to be more consistent if he hopes to win a record-extending 21st Grand Slam title.

“I have been in that position many times where you go through a little phase where you don’t start so well and everybody asks you right away, ‘What are you going to do?’,” he told reporters.

“You’re like, I don’t know. Just go back to the drawing board. Just do the same things again. You hope for a better outcome. I don’t think there is per se a secret to a good start other than warming up well, being well-prepared mentally. Not underestimating your opponent. I did all of that. You know me, I will always do that. So when it happens like this back-to-back matches it’s just a bit frustrating more than anything, especially when the level is that low and there is that many errors and the energy is not there. I can only do better, which is a great thing moving forward.”

Federer will look to get off to a better start when he faces either Lucas Pouille or Dan Evans for a place in the round of 16.

Djokovic overcomes shoulder woes to reach second round

Reigning champion Novak Djokovic battled a shoulder problem that hampered his serve and backhand as he secured a 6-4 7-6(3) 6-1 win over Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero and reached the third round of the US Open on Wednesday.

Djokovic, who had work done on his left shoulder during his pre-match warm-up inside Arthur Ashe Stadium earlier in the day, was in clear distress when he took a medical timeout while leading 4-3 in the first set.

“I was definitely tested and this is something I have been carrying for quite a while now,” Djokovic said when asked about the injury. “It wasn’t easy, obviously, playing with the pain but you have to find a way to fight and hope you get some lucky shots.”

Djokovic returned to court to close out the first set and then had more treatment before Londero, playing in only his second main draw match at Flushing Meadows, broke him twice for a 3-0 lead in the second. So bothered was Djokovic by his backhand that in the third game of the second set, at 30-30 and with Londero well out of position, he failed to get even a soft backhand to the open court over the net.

But he roared back to take the next five games, a stretch during which he managed to fire off a number of backhand winners, en route to strolling through the tiebreak before getting more treatment on his shoulder.

While Djokovic was nowhere near his best, Londero, who is in the midst of a breakout season that saw him win his first title, will be happy to have played at such a high level in his first career meeting with the Serbian.

Up next for Djokovic, who has won four of the last five Grand Slams, will be either fellow Serbian Dusan Lajovic, the 27th seed, or American Denis Kudla, who were unable to play their match earlier because of inclement weather.

Nishikori fends off spirited Klahn to advance

Japan’s Kei Nishikori fended off Bradley Klahn 6-2 4-6 6-3 7-5 in the US Open second round on Wednesday as the 2014 Flushing Meadows runner-up continued his bid for a first Grand Slam title. What appeared at the outset to be a routine match for the seventh-seeded Japanese turned into a surprise challenge from American Klahn.

After a tepid start, Klahn won all his first serve points in the second set and saved three of the four break point opportunities against him. Nishikori, who reached the semi-finals last year and in 2016, broke Klahn to take the third set, switching the momentum back in his favor and dominating the longer rallies.

Inconsistency ultimately proved Klahn’s downfall as the 29-year-old committed 62 unforced errors in the match, 30 more than his opponent. “(In the) second and fourth sets… I didn’t play aggressive as like the first or third sets. That cost me a set,” said Nishikori.

“He served pretty fast and accurate, too. And also (his) second serve, he hits big. I think he has a great serve for his height. He’s not the biggest guy on the tour. But I think he has great serve.”

Nishikori, who had rued his lack of playing time after his first-round opponent was forced to retire, was joined by his usual crowd of excitable fans, shielded from the soggy conditions under Louis Armstrong’s retractable roof.

He will face either 31st-seeded Cristian Garin of Chile or Australia’s Alex de Minaur in the third round.

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