New York: Roger Federer delivered another spectacular, between-the-legs shot at the US Open on Monday night.
The five-time champion at Flushing Meadows hit 18 aces in his 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 first round victory over 96th-ranked Brian Dabul of Argentina, part of Federer’s remarkable 46-4 advantage in winners.
“There’s nothing you can do when he has those days,” Dabul said. “He’s perfect.”
No shot was more spectacular than the one Federer came up with while leading 5-3 in the second set.
He was at the net when Dabul sailed a lob high overhead. Federer turned and sprinted toward the baseline. A few steps from the wall behind the court in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and with his back to the net, Federer smacked the ball through his legs.
The shot cleared the net and landed in a corner for a winner beside Dabul, who raised his eyebrows and shrugged his shoulders.
“Only he can do that,” Dabul would say later.
At the far end of the court, Federer celebrated the trick shot by raising his arms overhead and lifting his right index finger to signal No. 1. It was nearly identical to a back-to-the-court, through-the-legs passing winner Federer hit against Novak Djokovic in the 2009 US Open semifinals.
“Again, huh?” a wide-smiling Federer said in an on-court interview after the match. “I thought, ‘I think I can do this again.”‘
And it most definitely was real, no debate about that unlike the trick shot that has drawn more than 6 million views since being posted online on video sharing site YouTube two weeks ago. In that clip, shot in Zurich shortly after Wimbledon, Federer is seen serving a ball and swatting a metal bottle off a man’s head- twice in a row.
Federer has been coy about the authenticity of the video, and some have been skeptical, such as two-time major finalist Andy Murray, who said this weekend: “There’s not a chance it’s real.”
Monday’s result made Federer unbeaten from 16 US Open night matches, and he declared afterward, “I feel very much at home here.”
That perfect mark under the lights has helped Federer reach six consecutive US Open finals; the only loss in that stretch was to Juan Martin del Potro a year ago.
“I’d like to go there again this year,” Federer said. “The path is long and rough.”
His streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals ended with a quarterfinal loss to Robin Soderling at the French Open, and Federer lost again at that stage at Wimbledon.
But Monday’s victory clinched a berth in the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals at London in November, which is for the top eight men.