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Two months ago, Roger Federer had one foot out the door in the second round of the Gerry Weber Open. Staring down the barrel of two match points against Benoit Paire, he would need a moment of magic to overcome the charismatic Frenchman in a deciding tie-break.
There was no such drama on Thursday at the US Open, as the pair met once again with plenty at stake. Federer scored a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 win to book his spot in the third round and set a blockbuster battle against Nick Kyrgios on Saturday.
"I think it was a bit sort of up and down," said Federer. "I think it's always tricky against Benoit, because there's a lot of tactics going on. Never quite the same point. Sometimes he plays very deep in the court, then he plays up in the court. That's maybe why you draw errors out of each other rather than winners at the end. The match maybe doesn't look at good. Plus he covers the court very well. Sometimes you have a tendency to overplay, as well. But overall I'm happy. I think it was not a bad performance by any means by me. I can be pleased, so it's all good."
It was far from routine, but the second seed used his experience and guile to secure the win, benefitting from 47 unforced errors by Paire, while striking 27 winners of his own. He converted five of nine break chances.
A decade removed from his last title in New York, the five-time champion (2004-08) avoided his earliest exit in 18 visits to Flushing Meadows. He prevailed after one hour and 56 minutes, notching his 35th match win of 2018.
Federer and Kyrgios will meet for the fourth time in their budding FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry, with the Swiss claiming the two most recent encounters - on the hard courts of Miami last year and on the grass of Stuttgart this year. All three of their meetings have resulted in third-set tie-breaks. In fact, eight of the nine sets played were decided by tie-breaks.
It wasn't a bad performance, but not great by his own standards either (and I'm sure he knows that).
His 1st serve percentage was way below the norm and he'll have to do a lot better in that department in the next match.
And definitely not get broken because he's been lucky thus far with being broken while having a double breaks advantage.
Something tells me that won't be the case when he plays Kyrgios.
Than again I guess that all depends on which Kyrgios shows up to play.