NEW YORK—Spinning around the service line, Roger Federer looked over the outstretched hands eager to embrace his final shot and smiled. Then he wound up and let his forehand fly sending the ball high into the night sky.
All that activity took place after Federer soared into the fourth round for the 13th consecutive year with a 6-3, 6-0, 6-2 thrashing of Adrian Mannarino. On a night when winners flowed from Federer as easily as his signature, his most challenging moment was deciding where to hit the post-match souvenir balls while soaking in the screaming fans.
The five-time U.S. Open champion raised his record in Flushing Meadows night matches to 22-1 and outclassed the 63rd-ranked Frenchman in every possible measure. At times Mannarino wore the bemused expression of a man who had spent the past hour seeing his best shots reduced to audacious punch lines by a player operating at a higher level.
It was a match short on rallies and devoid of drama. Federer simply had too many shots and too much power against an opponent unequipped to slow his all-court attack. A whiplash forehand winner down the line gave Federer the first break. Swooping forward, Federer swatted a forehand swing volley winner into the corner to back up the break for a 4-1 lead after just 15 minutes of play. Here’s the degree of difficulty Mannarino faced: He committed only two unforced errors in the opening set, yet still lost it in less than a half hour. Federer fired an ace out wide for a 5-2 lead after 21 minutes and wrapped up the opening set eight minutes later, on the strength of 18 winners compared to four for Mannarino.
Federer struck his forehand and return—two shots he sometimes struggled with during his slump earlier this summer—with conviction, and continuously stepped into the court, applying pressure with his fast feet to set up some vicious swings. Sixteen of Federer’s 34 winners came from the forehand side. He converted six of 14 break points, denied the lone break point he faced in the fifth game, and won 19 of his 24 trips to net.
After only about an hour of play, Federer was in such complete command that kids clutching oversized yellow souvenir balls had already descended on the front rows in anticipation of the post-match autograph. He gave them something just as memorable, soaring above the court to snap off a high backhand volley—reminiscent of a young Stefan Edberg—in holding at love for a 3-1 third-set lead.
At that point, the match began to feel a bit like an exo. Federer spent one changeover gazing up at the video screen watching fans dance to Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.” After some eye-popping shots he delivered with the ease of someone playing points he already choreographed in his head, it wouldn’t have been a shock to see the Swiss moonwalk across the court. Instead he danced into a fourth-round clash with Tommy Robredo. Federer is 10-0 lifetime against the Spaniard, winning their seven hard-court meetings, including a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory in the 2009 U.S. Open fourth round, and if he extends his unbeaten streak against Robredo he could face rival Rafael Nadal in Flushing Meadows for the first time.
"It's been a tough year, but it hasn't been a horrible year," Federer said afterward. "I'm still ranked in the top 10. Okay, I have had better years, no doubt about it, but I can still play great tennis and sort of ten months ago I was world No. 1."
IBM Stat of the Match: 30 minutes: That was the longest set these two played. Some reasons for that include Mannarino's paltry 35 percent of second serves won and Federer's 92 percent of first serves won.
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