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Roger Federer continued his march through the U.S. Open with a straightforward win over Benoit Paire on Thursday while Novak Djokovic took down Tennys Sandgren.

By Associated Press
August 30, 2018

NEW YORK — Roger Federer says his favorite 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 and made it 18 out 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 to 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 channeled 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 favorite 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.

***

Later on Thursday, Novak Djokovic became rattled by Tennys Sandgren and a boisterous Arthur Ashe Stadium that knocked him off his game.

But his most troublesome antagonist at the U.S. Open came from within.

''The other me,'' Djokovic said with a smile, ''that my first me doesn't like.''

The alternate version of himself that Djokovic detests - when his mind, more than his skill, becomes the problem - surfaced in a puzzling third set when the 31-year-old Serb was only one point from victory but couldn't close the deal.

''You just have to accept it sometimes,'' Djokovic said. ''But that's being a human being, I guess. Not human doing.''

Whatever it was, Djokovic straightened himself and kept on a path toward a third U.S. Open championship.

Djokovic wasted a match point in the third set, before going on to win 6-1, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2 against Sandgren on Thursday night at the U.S. Open to reach the third round.

Djokovic had a much easier victory over Sandgren, an American ranked 61st, in Wimbledon's first round this year, dropping only six games in all.

The 13-time major champion seemed to be along the same path at Flushing Meadows, standing one point from victory while leading 5-4 in the third set as Sandgren served at 30-40. But Sandgren ended an 11-stroke exchange with a forehand winner, then took the tiebreaker.

Sandgren, who made a surprising run to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, noticed Djokovic's dip in the third.

''It's tough to stay really focused and clean for three full sets. It's just difficult to do,'' Sandgren said. ''If anybody can do it, he can. But he definitely blinked there for a moment.''

Djokovic, the 2011 and 2015 champion, regained the upper hand with an early break in the fourth and was on his way.

But it wasn't a fan-friendly victory.

Djokovic whined at Wimbledon when he was booed at times on Centre Court and he complained again at the U.S. Open about fans who turned the night session into a bit of a party.

He got on the fans during his post-match interview on the court for talking during points and said he lost his concentration.

''You can't expect that 23,000 people are quiet,'' he said. ''That's the beauty of night session U.S. Open. Everybody knows that. Wimbledon is all white, it's tradition. You can't hear a sound when you play a point. Here it's different. That's why these majors are unique in their own way.''

He has reunited with coach Marian Vajda - they briefly parted ways and Djokovic had a brief dalliance with Andre Agassi - to marked improvement. Djokovic knocked off Roger Federer in August to win a title in Cincinnati and a renewed focus with Vajda has been a key factor.

''When he came back, obviously we had to analyze what has happened in the last 12 months that we were not together and try to understand the situation with my body, with my game,'' Djokovic said.

Djokovic, who missed last year's Open with a sore elbow, won his 13th Grand Slam title this year at Wimbledon.

To get 14, he'll have to keep his ''other me'' under wraps.

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