The 36-year-old Swiss, chasing his third major of the year and 20th of his career, prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 to avoid losing in the first round of a Slam for the first time since the 2003 French Open. "We've played a bunch of times and this was probably our best match".
The win took Federer's first-round record in NY to 17-0 while world number one Rafael Nadal, a two-time champion in NY, went to 13-0 after the French Open victor claimed a 7-6 (8/6), 6-2, 6-2 win over Serbia's Dusan Lajovic. "Yeah, this match wasn't about the back, which is good", he said. "I feel quite warmed up right now".
When Tiafoe netted a final forehand, Federer raised his arms aloft. He carried volleys wide.
Federer managed another escape, something many of his peers have not engineered in the early rounds at Flushing Meadows.
"It looked liked Mikhail was cramping at the end and that was hard to watch".
Even when Federer broke twice in the second set, he was broken back twice, and quietly lost the tiebreaker.
Federer has won all 16 head-to-head meetings with Youzhny.
As you'd expect from an all-time great like Federer, though, he rallied back from that surprising first set and dominated Tiafoe over the next two.
But then again, Youzhny entered today's match with Federer at 0-16.
She was joined in the third round by fourth seed Elina Svitolina, who eased past Russia's Evgeniya Rodina 6-4, 6-4 and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, who reached the third round in NY for the first time with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Romania's Sorana Cirstea. Before tweaking his back at a tournament in Montreal, he sailed to his eighth Wimbledon title in July without dropping a set. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori all withdrew from the Grand Slam, while No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev and No. 8 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have already been bounced before the third round. For another day, the dream of Federer facing Nadal in Queens for the first time remains alive. "Because I wasn't feeling it so much at some stage all of a sudden, it came through fighting".
"It was exciting and this is why I came to NY, to go through these emotions", the Swiss added with a laugh.
'I still believe I'm going to pick up my game and become just more consistent because I'm not playing all that bad.