Roger Federer says his favourite drinks are cold water and a sparkling glass of champagne. Both could be on tap at the U.S. Open, Federer needed a few swigs of water on another steamy day at the Open and he played like a former champion set to uncork a celebratory bottle of bubbly.
"I don't like warm drinks, let's put it that way," Federer said, laughing.
Federer's coolness on the court belied another day where players needed cooling towels as much as their rackets. Federer, a five-time U.S. Open champion, had steeled himself for the heat by changing up his routine — he made an early trip to New York to prep his game in the sweltering sun.
"I felt like it's maybe one of these years where it could be hot," Federer said Thursday. "I had the plan to go to Dubai first, where it's extremely hot. I didn't want to be away from the family. I changed plans and said, 'Let's go early to America and prepare over here in the conditions that I'm actually going to see during the Open.'"
Federer was crisp in a 7-5, 6-4, 6-4 win over Benoit Paire in and made it 18 of 18 lifetime in the second round of the U.S. Open. Up next, Federer plays No. 30 seed Nick Kyrgios on Saturday.
"Not a bad performance by any means by me," Federer said.
He may have skipped humility in the humidity but it was tough argue against the No. 2 seed. Federer, who was forced to clarify a joke about retirement, isn't going away with a sixth title in sight.
Federer has eased up on his schedule, saying he no longer wanted to just "play, play, play." But when he does, there are still few better on the hard court. And his plan to pass on Dubai — where temps this week hit 110 degrees — for the breezy 90s in New York could be a factor in how far he goes.
"If you train in the cold all the time, all of a sudden it hits you, the humidity and heat," he said. "You're just not ready. I don't care how fit you are, what you're used to, the humidity can really get to you. I think that was a good choice."
Paire wilted in the heat — though, Federer's backhand and slicing serve were more to blame for his downfall.
Federer and Paire engaged in a soft volley that made it seem like the ball was floating through the air compared to the power of their 120 mph serves. When Federer finally slipped a winner by the Frenchman, Paire stared blankly ahead with an "I can't believe this" look of despair.
Paire's game slipped into comedy, at times. He smashed his racket and had it shoot up and smack him in the face. He even channelled a World Cup star when he kicked the ball in disgust that brought gasps from the crowd.
"Did you see what he did!? Uncalled for!" one fan yelled out.
The only highlights for Paire were the bleached blond tips of his hair — Federer even forced his overmatched foe to his stomach before his game went belly up. He tumbled over the court and had more melodrama than match points. He earned a small cheer when he briefly played hacky sack with the ball.
When it was over, the public address announcer exhorted New York to "give it up for Roger Federer!"
The crowd went wild for the fan favourite and Federer thanked them for coming out.
They'll see him again against Kyrgios, who burst onto the scene with a win against No. 1 Rafael Nadal in 2014 at Wimbledon.
"He knows what he needs to do to get to winning ways," Federer said.
He even knows how to beat Federer: The 37-year-old Swiss star holds a modest 2-1 career record against Kyrgios.