Roger Federer, Mardy Fish move on

NEW YORK -- Roger Federer can tell that playing conditions at the U.S. Open are slower than last year. He wonders whether -- for the good of the game -- it would be more interesting if they were quicker.

"The issue for me more is: Maybe did they make a mistake? Maybe they did paint the court a bit too rough. It's just unfortunate, I think, that maybe all the Slams are too equal," the 16-time major champion said. "I think they should feel very different to the Australian Open, and now I don't feel it really does."

The third-seeded Federer got his first chance to play a match on the 2011 version of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night, beating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the second round at the U.S. Open. The victory allowed Federer to tie Andre Agassi for the second-most Grand Slam wins in the Open era, with 224.

Only Jimmy Connors, with 233, won more.

Federer said he wasn't aware of that mark.

"I've played many Slams in a row already. I'm healthy. It's just another way of saying, 'Roger, you've been doing many right things throughout your career,' " he said. "It gives me good satisfaction and points me in the right direction, I think."

Federer improved to 12-0 in first-round matches at Flushing Meadows, and 57-6 overall at a venue where he's lifted the champion's trophy five times.

The Swiss star, who turned 30 on Aug. 8, is trying to win at least one Grand Slam title for what would be a record ninth consecutive year. He also would like to become the first 30-something man to win a major tournament since Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open.

Federer has won each major trophy at least once, so he knows the ins and outs of the various Grand Slam surfaces -- the hard courts at the Australian Open and U.S. Open, clay courts at the French Open, and grass courts at Wimbledon.

He showed a few signs of rust early under the lights against Giraldo, losing serve three times in the first two sets. Federer thought that might have been connected to his sense that the court played "definitely slower" than at the hard-court tuneup tournaments at Cincinnati and Montreal this month -- and slower than in New York in 2010.

"It takes, I think, some getting used to. You're not getting as many free points, maybe, with your serve," Federer said. "Maybe that was part of the inconsistent play I had early on in the first couple of sets."

Explaining how the conditions felt Monday, Federer said: "The night session just feels like you can take huge cuts at the ball, you can run everything down. It's great for tennis, but I'm not sure if it's really what the game needs. The game needs different, you know, speed at Slams and so forth. I don't feel we quite have that at the moment, you know, especially if the U.S. Open is getting slower."

On the other hand, Federer noted that he thinks that will lead to "amazing points."

"It's going to be super athletic, which I think is fun," he added. "So it's all good."

While Federer discussed what it's like to play in the night finale, Mardy Fish, America's new best hope at this year's U.S. Open, was able to shine in the opening match in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

On Monday, he lived up to the billing, opening his stay at Flushing Meadows with a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory over Tobias Kamke of Germany that included a between-the-legs shot in the final game of a match that took only 1 hour, 43 minutes.

"To be honest, I thought that was my only shot," Fish said. "I didn't try to hit a winner. Just tried to make it."

But if Fish is ever going to bring out his inner showman, now is the time. He enters as the eighth seed, the top-ranked player, man or woman, in America, supplanting Andy Roddick after his long run as the top American male.

Fish, whose match was delayed two hours as workers hurried to prepare the stadium that was battened down for Hurricane Irene over the weekend, is looking to get past the quarterfinals in a major for the first time.

"I'm just so excited to be in this position. To be out here. I don't get to play out here too often," Fish said. "Hopefully, I'll get to play out here more this year."

Fish opened the match by losing his serve, but that turned out to be the only hiccup. He is one of 14 American men entered in the U.S. Open, as the host country continues its quest to find the next great champion. No U.S. man has won a major since Roddick won in New York in 2003.

Also looking to make a mark at this year's tournament is seventh-seeded Gael Monfils, who won his opening-round match at the U.S. Open on Monday, defeating Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-4.

Monfils, who made the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows last year, was called for a double fault while facing break point at 5-4 in the third set. He challenged the call and the replay showed the ball squarely in. Given a second chance, Monfils saved break point then served out the match.

Dimitrov, ranked 52nd, was making his U.S. Open debut after making the second round at the Australian Open and Wimbledon earlier this year.

Also winning in early play Monday was 27th-seeded Marin Cilic, who defeated 19-year-old American Ryan Harrison 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (6). Harrison, who made headlines last year with his first-round upset of 15th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic, had chances to serve out the second and third sets, but was broken each time.

He also squandered a 4-1 lead in the third-set tiebreaker -- and took nothing away from this match but a few scratched-up rackets, the result of the multiple times he bounced them, kicked them and skidded them along the ground at Louis Armstrong Stadium. He also kicked a ball into the stands.

"I didn't break any rackets; I didn't say swear words on court," Harrison said. "It could have gotten better and I could have been better. I didn't really go nuts."

Other early winners included ninth-seeded Tomas Berdych, No. 13 Richard Gasquet, 20th-seeded Janko Tipsarevic, No. 22 Alexandr Dolgopolov and No. 31 Marcel Granollers.

No. 15 Viktor Troicki of Serbia was the only ranked male to lose, falling 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 against Alejandro Falla of Colombia.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.