NEW YORK – It was a dark and stormy ... late afternoon on Arthur Ashe Stadium as the expected thunderstorms finally were about to hit.
Perhaps it was the gods of tennis letting loose their wrath, because Federer was very slow out of the gate – and Granollers was on fire. He was down 2-5 in the first set when play was stopped, and that simply wouldn't do.
Two hours later, almost to the minute, Federer and Granollers returned to the stadium court and despite losing the first set, Federer restored order in rather short order in a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory that was, after that first 19 minutes, dominant and emphatic.
"I thought it was a good match, I was able to come back and turn it around because Marcel started really on fire. We knew there was maybe going to be rain in the air. I’m happy the break helped me," Federer said in an on-court interview with Tennis Channel.
The players returned to a nearly-empty Arthur Ashe Stadium, as the decision was made that this day-session match was now going to be part of the night session. That was a major bonus for the night-session ticket holders; for those who had waited patiently through the rain delay to see the rest of the Federer match, not so much.
It's not often Federer plays in an empty stadium, beyond his morning practice sessions on stadium courts around the world. The changeovers were a madhouse as the fans rushed to get to their seats.
As it was, the 7 p.m. start was moved up some 20 minutes and with no tennis around the grounds to arrive early to see, the crowd wasn't expecting it.
Granollers broke Federer to take the first set 6-4, after Federer had retrieved the break he left on court during the break. But after the first few games of the second set, it was all Federer. He ended up with 57 winners and 27 unforced errors, moving like the younger self CBS was showing highlights of during the rain delay.
The humidity was oppressive. Players in action Sunday night once play resumed, including the likes of Austrian youngster Dominic Thiem and veteran Spanish lefty Feliciano Lopez on the Grandstand court, looked as though their shirts were painted on and they had just hopped out of the shower.
Even Federer looked like a drowned rat – or as close to that as the unflappable Swiss can get. This happens so rarely you almost wanted to look up to see if donkeys were flying.
During his on-court interview with former player Rennae Stubbs, Federer was flicking the sweat off his face with his thumb – a signature move by noted sweater Pete Sampras back in the day. His hair was just about completely wet, and he was still dirpping.
"You don’t know what’s going to happen, but the conditions definitely changed a lot," he said. "It was windy and quick when we started. When we came back, the wind was gone and it was just humid. I guess it played in my favour, when you look back at the scoreline."
Some matches were switched around because of the rain, albeit in typical U.S. Open late and confusing fashion. The match between No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin of Belgium, scheduled as the second night match after the women's match between Jelena Jankovic and Belinda Bencic on Arthur Ashe Stadium, was moved to the Grandstand to give it a shot at a decent starting time.
To make room, the women's fourth-round match between No. 14 seed Lucie Safarova and Shuai Peng was shifted to Court 5.