By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Roger Federer served notice he was still a powerhouse at the U.S. Open and punctuated his performance with another sensational shot for the ages in a first-round rout over Argentine Brian Dabul Monday.
The Swiss maestro turned master showman when he reprised the between-the-legs winner he hit last year in the semi-finals against Serbia's Novak Djokovic with an equally spectacular between-the-legs winner that left Dabul stunned on the other side of the net late in the second set.
Federer threw his arms up in triumph while cheers rained down and fans showed their adulation by bowing to the 16-time major champion while Dabul applauded with his racket.
"I've only hit a few in my life and two on center court in night session play here in New York," the second-seeded Federer said in an on-court interview. "It's amazing to share this moment with you guys. Thanks for the ovation and I love it."
Federer raced back to retrieve a lob from left-hander Dabul and with his back to his opponent, stretched to reach it from well beyond the baseline and uncorked a rifle shot through his legs that rocketed deep into the backhand corner leaving the Argentine frozen in stunned appreciation.
The incredible shot highlighted a bravura performance by Federer, who improved to 16-0 under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium and guaranteed himself a spot in the ATP World Finals.
Federer blasted 18 aces to none for Dabul and cranked out 46 winners to his opponent's four.
"I've never lost night sessions. I feel very much at home here," said the 29-year-old Federer. "I always come out and played some good tennis here over the years. I've been in six straight finals.
"I would like to go there again this year. The path is long and rough, we'll see how it goes. I'm excited to be back and playing well."
The second-seeded Federer next plays Germany's Andreas Beck, who beat compatriot Michael Berrer in straight sets.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Frank Pingue)