by Ravi Ubha
Roger Federer's coach, Stefan Edberg, was known as an attacking player during his day.
Serving and volleying, as well as chipping and charging the net, helped the Swede amass six grand slam titles in the 1980s and '90s. But not even Edberg employed some of the audacious tactics Federer has used in the past month.
The Swiss approached the net at the Cincinnati Masters after half-volleying second-serve returns, and the unconventional ploy contributed to Federer ousting both top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, then the No. 2, en route to a seventh title.
All eyes were on Federer -- well, they usually are -- to see if the men's record 17-time grand slam winner would stick with it at the U.S. Open.
He did, with success, and Leonardo Mayer was the unfortunate recipient in the first round.
On a second consecutive day of sweltering conditions in New York -- the heat wave isn't expected to subside anytime soon -- Federer crushed the Argentine 6-1 6-2 6-2 on Arthur Ashe stadium.
Mayer isn't a household name, even if he won the longest singles match in Davis Cup history in March in a shade under seven hours, but he entered Tuesday's clash just outside the seedings and held five match points on Federer when they met at the Shanghai Masters last October.
Federer rallied, leaving Mayer in tears.
Tuesday's loss could hardly be classified as agonizing for the world No. 34, since it lasted a mere 77 minutes. Federer struck 29 winners -- one of which came when, airborne, he pummeled a smash to conclude the second set -- to only 13 unforced errors and claimed 84% of his first-serve points.
Federer's game plan seemed to destabilize Mayer: He hit seven double faults and made 31 unforced errors.
Those half-volley returns, Federer said, started in practice after Wimbledon and he was urged to continue by his other coach, Severin Luthi.
"Happily I was able to use it today," Federer said in an on-court interview. "I enjoy it and hope I can keep it up.
"When you lose a point it's a bit ridiculous but when you win it's a great feeling."
Federer, who recorded his 73rd U.S. Open victory to pull level for third with Ivan Lendl, added that center court was playing quicker than usual. If true, it's probably a result of Arthur Ashe stadium being partially covered as organizers are well into constructing a retractable roof that will be fully operational for next year's event.
The faster the better for Federer, who is bidding to win a first major in three years.
There's now less wind on tennis' largest regularly used stadium, according to Federer, and the 34-year-old insisted it would "increase the level of play."
"It used to be the windy place to play," said Federer. "Here on center court you (now) avoid that."
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