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Federer returns with interest to beat Groth

Michael Beattie at Flushing Meadows
August 30, 2014 « LIVE - Transfer deadline day | Day 6: Maria Ho eliminated, 68 left »
Roger Federer returned a 147mph serve against Sam Groth en route to a second straight-sets victory in New York © AP
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Roger Federer tamed one of the biggest serves in tennis to see off Sam Groth 6-4 6-4 6-4 and book a third-round US Open showdown with Spain's Marcel Granollers.

Groth, the hulking Australian who holds the record for the fastest serve at 163mph, threw everything he had at Federer - and the ball just kept coming back. He topped out at 147mph against the five-time former champion to no avail; one of his quickest deliveries of the night in the first set, a 142mph bullet down the T, flashed back past him before his feet had found the court.

"You do see, with the big, big serving guys, when they go for the really big serve," Federer said of his ability to deal with Groth's barrage of deliveries. "You just have that feeling that they're really going to try to crank it - their body tightens up, and that gives it away sometimes.

"You have to react rather than just always play percentage tennis and just hope to get the other odd ball back, then all of a sudden it drops short; you've got to run up to it. Whenever somebody is at the net or you're at the net, there's always something of the unknown that's going to happen a little bit more."

Federer certainly faced a battle to beat dyed-in-the-wool serve-volleyer Groth to the net, but the 17-time grand slam champion was more than capable of undoing the world No.104 from the back court, floating low balls that forced the 26-year-old to volley up and powering drives or looping lobs around and over his man.

Three unplayable returns in the seventh game sealed the only break of the first set, and Groth earned himself a code violation for blasting a ball into the upper tier of Arthur Ashe Stadium when the Swiss broke in the first game of the second set. The release had the desired effect for Groth who hit back with a break of his own, staying back to draw a string of errors from Federer to level up.

Yet again Federer's reaction speed on the return earned him break point in game nine, sealed when Groth volleyed long to leave the Swiss to serve his way to a two-set lead. The Australian refused to go quietly however, breaking in the third for a 4-2 lead.

Federer responded in champion manner, immediately winning four unanswered games to close out the match in one hour 48 minutes and sealing victory with an ace - his 24th night session win in New York in 25 matches.

"He's got an aura because of how good his tennis is," said Groth, who admitted he had struggled with nerves in the build-up to his first match on a grand slam show court. "I knew I was playing Roger Federer. Once I got out there I actually felt pretty good. I wasn't shaking. I did feel nervous - not because of the situation, not because it's Roger. His tennis is the thing. His record is unbelievable."

Granollers awaits Federer in the next round after coming through a five-set marathon with another serving machine, Ivo Karlovic. The Spaniard claimed the odd break in three in a contest that stretched on for three hours, 51 minutes to clinch a 7-6(6) 6-7(3) 7-6(5) 3-6 6-4 victory.

Michael Beattie is a tennis writer for ESPN. Follow him on Twitter here.

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