European sophisticate Roger Federer can feel the love even more from the US Open public now that he stands as second seed at a major for the first time since early 2004.
The Swiss who lost his ATP number 1 ranking crown after a four-and-a-half-year reign to Rafael Nadal, showed he won’t be bowled over in despair, crushing Argentine outsider Maximo Gonzalez with the loss of just six games to advance to the second round.
And Federer, freshly crowned Olympic doubles gold medallist, says that he’s perhaps experiencing even more support than ever before.
“It’s never really been too difficult for me. I always thought fans were really good for me, excited to see me.”
The winner of a dozen grand slam titles — he claimed his last at Flushing Meadows a year ago over Novak Djokovic — believes that his rising popularity with the fickle Gotham fan base is due to solid past performances.
“They’re supposed to scream for the Americans here,” he said. “I guess I’m very close to their hearts by now.
“It took me a while to maybe win over the American crowds, but I had an incredible amount of success over here.
“Winning the Masters Cup (Houston) a couple of times, the US Open four times in a row ... every other American tournament I entered I was able to win in the past.”
His trophy list in the US includes Cincinnati (twice), Miami (twice) and victories in the Californian desert at Indian Wells.
“I think just playing so many great matches here on centre court and the (2005) final with Agassi ... I think people saw how much I loved playing the game and how much I love playing here.”
After taking his time as a shy Swiss teenager in coming to terms with the brash and bold New York style, Federer at age 27 has adapted nicely.
His handlers decided a few years ago to lift his North American profile, pairing him occasionally with golfing dominator Tiger Woods and inserting him and girlfriend/manager Mirka Vavrinec into the Manhattan social swirl.
The result is a still-modest and personable figure who transcends his sport and reaps huge financial rewards as a global brand.
“I think I have great appeal to many fans around the world, and they have always enjoyed watching me play. Maybe because I speak so many different languages and I’m so international I have a bit of an advantage,” he said.
Kuznetsova holds on
Former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova recovered from a slow start to beat Romanian teenager Sorana Cirstea 7-6, 6-1 to reach the third round of the U.S. Open on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, former world number one Amelie Mauresmo overcame fellow Frenchwoman Nathalie Dechy 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the second round. Sixth seed Dinara Safina, kept up her recent hot streak to beat grand slam debutante Kristie Ahn 6-3, 6-4. Twice champion Venus Williams charged past Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-2, 6-3 to join her sister Serena in the next round.