Two days after the controversy over his pep talk from umpire Mohamed Lahyani during a second-round win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Kyrgios had hoped his tennis could write the headlines.
But a missed chance in the opening set proved the turning point as Federer raced to a 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 victory after just an hour and 44 minutes.
“I’m very happy to have won,” said the second seed. “I thought I played very well. At the beginning it was hard to get any rhythm, the first set was key. I enjoy playing against Nick, he comes up with different shot-making. He keeps you on the edge.”
If Rafael Nadal against Karen Khachanov was a gladiatorial battle, this was part tennis match, part circus show, and Federer was the ringmaster.
They had played three times before, with Federer winning two, but each had gone to a deciding tie-break, so hopes were high that this could be a tight contest.
Keeping his head down is not Kyrgios’ style and he ran out for the warm-up like Nadal before imitating Federer’s service motion in the fourth game.
It won him the point, but probably did not impress the man down the other end. Federer admits he, too, does things on court to keep himself entertained, trying different tactics like his half-volley return, but it is unlikely he empathises too much with Kyrgios’ approach to tennis.
For 25 minutes, this was a compelling contest, and, had Kyrgios taken advantage of four break points in the seventh game, including three at 0-40, then the match might have panned out very differently.
But he could not and three games later Federer found a way into a Kyrgios service game for the first time and sliced a backhand return down the line to take the set.
Kyrgios began to rant at his box and things swiftly went from bad to worse at the start of the second set. Sitting down at 0-3, the scoreline was exactly the same as it had been against Herbert when Lahyani intervened, but umpire James Keothavong stayed firmly in his chair.
All the tricks were coming from the Federer racket as he drop-shotted his opponent almost at will and arrowed passing shots inside the lines.
Kyrgios at least avoided a love set, stopping the run of games against him at nine, and the third set gave the crowd the contest they had been hoping to see.
The seventh game was a show in itself, highlighted by a forehand Federer somehow guided round the net-post that left Kyrgios open-mouthed in amazement.
Speaking about the shot afterwards, Federer said: “The funny thing about this shot is I didn’t think of it until I hit it. I thought I was not going to get it. I realised it went too flat. Definitely a bit of luck but also good feet and I guess I deserved it.”
Federer broke serve to lead 6-5 and served out the victory to love to set up a last-16 meeting with another Australian, the unheralded John Millman.
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The Wimbledon champion had struggled in the heat against Marton Fucsovics two days previously and been relieved to come through in four sets, but looked to be cruising in the slightly cooler evening conditions before things became complicated in the third set.
Djokovic fought back from a break down and held a match point at 5-4 but Sandgren saved it.
A sloppy tie-break from Djokovic coupled with inspired play from his opponent saw the American push the match into a fourth set, where the sixth seed regained his superiority to win 6-1 6-3 6-7 (2/7) 6-2.
Djokovic said: “Credit to Tennys for playing well, fighting, a great attitude on the court. I thought I played very well for the first two-and-a-half sets and then I just lost it mentally, I got pissed off at something, myself, my game, I don’t know.
“I’m not happy with the way I lost that concentration and composure there but I managed to regroup in the fourth. I started talking to myself, to my team, to everyone else. But it’s in these kind of moments you learn lessons and hopefully I’ll move on a better player.”
Novak Djokovic rolls into Round 3 with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2 win over Tennys Sandgren.
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) August 31, 2018
Djokovic’s Wimbledon title appeared to show he had put the mental and physical struggles of the past couple of years behind him, but the 31-year-old admitted there is still work to do alongside coach Marian Vajda.
“It’s a work in progress still,” he said. “We are working daily on trying to perfect the game and put it together. But we both still feel that I have lots of room for improvement. That’s what’s exciting about this sport.”
Djokovic next faces Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who defeated Laslo Djere 6-3 7-6 (7/5) 6-3.
Like Halep’s first-round loss to Kaia Kanepi, Wozniacki could have no complaints after being well beaten by Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 6-4 6-2.
The Dane said: “I started off pretty well, then I think I played well in parts of the first set, just trying to stay aggressive. But she was playing smarter than me. She played the game that I was supposed to be playing.”
After breaking her grand slam duck in Melbourne after so many years of trying, it has not been a great season for Wozniacki, barring a title in Eastbourne in June.
She has failed to go beyond the fourth round at any of the three slams since, with this defeat following a second-round loss against Ekaterina Makarova at Wimbledon.
Wozniacki said: “This part of the season is usually a part of the season I really look forward to, one I really play well. I definitely would have wished to have played more and gone further. All I can do now is regroup, think what I can do, and also just make sure my body is 100 per cent.
“I’m always going to say it’s a great season because I won my first major. If I hadn’t won in Australia, we would be talking differently. But I did. I’m very proud of that. It’s something that nobody can ever take away from me.”
Over on Arthur Ashe, Maria Sharapova avoided more late-night drama, recovering from a break down in the second set to defeat Sorana Cirstea 6-2 7-5 and set up an exciting clash with Jelena Ostapenko.
No-one has risen more swiftly up the ranks in women’s tennis this season than Aryna Sabalenka, and the Belarusian is looking to do some damage in New York.
Sabalenka began the season ranked 78 but now sits just inside the top 20 and, at 20, is the youngest of that elite group.
After beating four top-10 players in a sequence of results building up to this tournament that culminated with her first WTA Tour title in New Haven, Sabalenka defeated Vera Zvonareva 6-3 7-6 (9/7) to reach the third round at a grand slam for the first time.
She said: “Of course this is unbelievable for me and I’m really in shock right now because it was such a great summer for me. I didn’t expect it to be that good and I’m so happy with this level I show on the court.”
The third round is usually where grand slams come alive and there will certainly be plenty of eyes on Sabalenka’s next clash with fifth seed Petra Kvitova, who is showing strong form in New York and defeated China’s Wang Yafan 7-5 6-3.
Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber survived a lengthy tussle with Swede Johanna Larsson.
The German looked to be cruising at a set and a break up and served for the match, only for Larsson to hit back and take it to a decider, which fourth seed Kerber edged for a 6-2 5-7 6-4 triumph.
Sixth seed Caroline Garcia was also pushed hard in a 6-2 1-6 6-4 victory over Monica Puig while there were also wins for Naomi Osaka, Madison Keys and Kiki Bertens.
Eleventh seed Daria Kasatkina was beaten, though, the Wimbledon quarter-finalist falling 6-2 7-6 (7/3) to Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Dominika Cibulkova defeated Hsieh Su-wei but was astonished to be penalised two points for arriving back late following the heat break at the end of the second set.
The Slovakian said: “It’s a 10-minute break, but they don’t consider that we walk from Court 17. It took me, I think, more than three minutes walking through the people, because there were so many fans.
“And then the umpire, she just told me, ‘OK, it’s going to be 0-30’, and I couldn’t believe it. I think it’s not right to get two-point penalties because of this.”