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U.S. Open: Roger Federer’s retirement talk was ‘total joke’

Roger Federer voiced the dreaded “R” word — retirement — during an on-court interview following his 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Yoshihito Nishioka at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday night. But fear not, fans of the 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, who turned 37 three weeks ago. He was quick to explain it was a lighthearted remark related to preserving his perfect record in U.S. first-round matches, not a hint he plans to hang up his cranberry-red sneakers.

“I said maybe I could retire now, because I protect my 18 first-round wins here. That’s what I meant with it. It’s a total joke, yes,” said Federer, who won the last of his five straight titles here in 2008. “So please don’t read into it. Don’t even write that word.”

The most appropriate word about his performance was routine. He said he prepared enough to avoid the big-show nerves he sometimes feels. “I love coming to play here. It’s been so many years now. So it’s great to have played also a good first round against an entertaining first-round opponent,” he said.

Roger Federer celebrates victory following his men's singles first round match against Yoshihito Nishioka at the US Open on Tuesday.
(Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

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Very Sharapova

No. 22 seed Maria Sharapova improved to 12-0 in U.S Open first-round play with a 6-2, 7-6 (6) victory over 39-year-old qualifier Patty Schnyder, who had retired in 2011 but returned to competition a few years ago. Sharapova reached the round of 16 here last year while ranked 146th and in the early stages of her return from a 15-month doping ban. Sharapova also is 21-0 in night matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which she never expected. “Being in New York City was very intimidating as a teenager but I’ve really embraced it the last decade or so, since my victory,” said Sharapova, the 2006 champion here.

Swiss-born Schnyder said she didn’t feel like she had been gone for so long. “It feels great because it’s my passion, my life,” she said. She also said she was glad her 3½-year-old daughter, Kim, was able to watch from the stands and has begun to grasp basic tennis concepts. “Getting to know her world is much more fun than what I do,” Schnyder said. Sharapova said Schnyder “still has incredible hands and moves very well for being out of the game for so long,” but Schnyder hasn’t decided if she will continue to play.

No. 14 seed Madison Keys, the 2017 women’s runnerup here, eased past Pauline Parmentier of France, 6-4, 6-4.

“I’m always really happy to get a night match on Ashe. It’s truly one of the best moments to walk out to a home crowd late at night, prime time, all of that,” she said.

She added she was pleased with her tactics.

“After having kind of a too-amped-up start, being able to dial it down and work the points,” said Keys, whose second-round opponent will be another American, Bernarda Pera. “I was most happy with how I stayed in rallies and was waiting for the right ball, not pulling the trigger too soon.”

Etc.

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Frances Tiafoe has long been considered one of the most promising members of the next generation of elite men’s players. On Tuesday, the 20-year-old from Maryland earned his first U.S. Open win, upsetting No. 29 Adrian Mannarino of France 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. He earned his tour title in February. In a mild upset, Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium defeated No. 24 seed CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 7-6 (3). ... No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany advanced with a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 rout of lucky loser Peter Polansky of Canada. ... No. 4 women’s seed Angelique Kerber got past Margarita Gasparyan of Russia, 7-6 (5), 6-3. ... No. 7 men’s seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, advanced to the second round when Marius Copil of Romania retired. Copil said on Twitter he had “no power” in his left leg. ... U.S. wild-card entrant Tim Smyczek was beaten by Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 7-6 (2) , 6-4, 6-3. ... In two All-American matchups, Taylor Townsend beat wild card Amanda Anisimova 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, while Francesca Di Lorenzo defeated Christina McHale 6-1, 7-6 (1). ... Nicole Gibbs of Venice lost to No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen

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