Bilgin Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
By Jon Wertheim
September 05, 2014

Three quick thoughts after Roger Federer’s rollicking 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 defeat of Gael Monfils, sustaining his hopes at the 2014 U.S. Open.

Federer overcomes lackluster start

The 20,000 or so fans who came to see Roger Federer on Thursday night got their share of liquid shotmaking and graceful play, but they got to see a side of Federer not often in evidence. They saw a player who was decidedly off -- palpably nervous, flatter than the court itself for much of the match, mis-hitting his shots in a way the stat sheet couldn’t reflect -- the antithesis of the Federer we expect. John McEnroe put it well: “This was not the level he expected of himself when he walked out on this court.” Yet, after Federer dropped the first two sets, the fans saw Federer adjust, recover, play through rough patches and score a riveting five-set win.

Relive point-by-point Federer's classic U.S. Open win against Monfils

Monfils came close to a victory

Monfils, on one changeover, (not the one when he drank a Coke) sat on the ground and looked to be hugging himself as he stretched. It was understandable. For the first hour tonight, he took advantage of Federer’s nervous and flat play and took a 2-0 set lead. At 5-4 in the fourth set, Monfils had a pair of match points, and came within inches. Literally from here                                               to here of winning the match.

Daily Data Visualization: Comparing Federer and Monfils' style of play