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By Richard Pagliaro
© Andy Kentla

(August 30, 2010) Tennis theatricality comes to court when Roger Federer plays in New York at night. On the game's largest Grand Slam stage, Federer continues to be tennis' most electrifying player creating the type of jaw-dropping, pupil-popping shots you'd swear require special effects or at least a stunt double to pull off.

Holding a 6-1, 5-3 lead over Brian Dabul in Monday night's US Open first-round clash, Federer found himself at net only to see a Dabul loft a running lob that seemed destined to be a winner soar over his head.

Some players might have conceded a winner, some might have given perfunctory pursuit and some might have even managed to get a flailing racquet frame on the ball.

Federer takes improvisational brilliance to Harry Potter proportions.

How many players on the planet could have pulled off the circus shot Federer did? Sprinting with his back to the net like a man determined to break through the blue back wall, Federer caught up to the ball near the baseline and flicked the stunning, running between the legs shot that landed for a clean winner in the corner, left Dabul shrugging in disbelief, brought an electrified crowd to its feet and made Federer's William Tell style video trick should look positively pedestrian by comparison.

"I had to really give the last big push at the end. I didn't have time to set it up," Federer said.  "So I felt like this one was incredible again.  I turned around and couldn't believe the shot landed in the corner. So the ovation was fantastic. Crowds went wild.  Yeah, you could see on my reaction I couldn't believe it."

The stupefying shot was the tennis equivalent of Willie Mays' basket catch of Vic Wertz. The Swiss stylist struck the shot su superbly by the time he turned around the yellow ball was already landing on the blue court. The resounding roar of the crowd told Federer all he needed to know and he waved his arms enjoying his own ridiculous racquet work.

"The thing is, by the time I turn around it's already in the corner of the court on the other side, so I'm almost looking for the ball first up," Federer said.  "And then I just    I'm not even sure if I saw the bounce or not, and then obviously the crowd gave me the answer, which was kind of good."

The shot brought the fans to their feet and Dabul to his knees as Federer wrapped up a 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 triumph to set up a second-round encounter with Germany's Andreas Beck.

The second-seeded Swiss raised his record to 16-0 in US Open night matches and secured his spot in the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, to be held at The O2 in London, November 21-28th.

The 29-year-old Federer pulled off the between the legs trick shot for the second straight year. He used it as a passing shot in his semifinal win over Novak Djokovic last September.

"Obviously the importance of last year's was probably a little bit more important just because I think it was Love 30 to go Love 40, two points away from the match, and it was a semifinal," Federer said.  "So obviously that has a little bit of an impact, too."

While the 2009 edition was a bigger game-changer, Monday night's 'tweener was a more spectacular shot because Federer covered more ground to hit it and because Dabul, unlike Djokovic last year, was actually camped out on the baseline making the fact Federer pulled it off past the Argentine even more astounding.

"I knew I hit it (well). I had good contact, perfect speed and hit and everything," Federer said.  "I kind of like it when the ball like gets away from me a little bit, so I hit it with it's lower because then I can generate more pace."

How can Federer possibly top the shot? Asked if he combine his between-the-legs acumen with the television magic shot of knocking a bottle off a man's head, Federer said: "That's kind of tough, the trajectory going up.  You can feel like the nose and everything being hit first."


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