NEW YORK — At this point in his career, Roger Federer recognizes the importance of a little extra work.
That’s why the owner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, and the man who spent more weeks ranked No. 1 than any other, was out there on a U.S. Open practice court late Tuesday afternoon, putting in some training time shortly after finishing off a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over 62nd-ranked Grega Zemlja of Slovenia in the first round.
At 32, at his lowest ranking, No. 7, in more than a decade, and coming off a stunningly early exit at the previous major tournament — one of a series of newsworthy losses lately — Federer is OK with making some concessions. He insists his passion for tennis is still there.
“I’m in a good spot right now,” Federer said. “I want to enjoy it as long as it lasts.”
He made it sound, though, as if it isn’t as easy to enjoy things the way his results have been going.
Federer entered Tuesday 32-11, a .744 winning percentage that doesn’t sound too bad, until you consider his career mark at the start of this season was .816, and he’s had years where he went 81-4 (.953). and 92-5 (.948). He’s only won one tournament in 2013, which would be great for some guys, but Federer topped 10 titles three times, and hasn’t won fewer than three in any season since 2001.
“Clearly, when you win everything, it’s fun. That doesn’t necessarily mean you love the game more. You just like winning, being on the front page, lifting trophies, doing comfortable press conferences. It’s nice. But that doesn’t mean you really, actually love it, love it,” said Federer, whose streak of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals ended with a second-round defeat at Wimbledon against an opponent ranked 116th. “That maybe shines through maybe more in times when you don’t play that well. For me, I knew it — winning or losing, practice court or match court — that I love it.”
As fan favorite Federer took the first step toward a possible quarterfinal meeting with nemesis Rafael Nadal, an unknown teen from the United States made a Grand Slam breakthrough Tuesday. Victoria Duval, a 17-year-old qualifier who is ranked 296th, pulled off quite an upset, eliminating 2011 U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Duval jumped up and down with arms aloft after pounding a forehand winner to convert her fourth match point. And why not? Duval had never beaten a player ranked higher than 69th, never even faced one in the top 20, and never won a Grand Slam match.
“I know she didn’t play her best today, and this is the best I’ve played in my career, so I’m really excited,” Duval told the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd. “I just tried to stay in the moment.”
Other seeded women joining the No. 11 Stosur on the way out were No. 17 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 20 Nadia Petrova and No. 31 Klara Zakopalova.
No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, the 2012 U.S. Open runner-up and a two-time Australian Open winner, was to play in the night session.
Her match in Arthur Ashe Stadium came after top-seeded Novak Djokovic began his bid for a second U.S. Open title, and seventh major trophy overall, by beating 112th-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
“I played every point like it’s a match point,” Djokovic said after needing less than 1½ hours to win.