NEW YORK — At this point in his career, Roger Federer recognizes the importance of a little extra work.
That's why the owner of a record 17 Grand Slam titles, and the man who spent more weeks ranked No. 1 than any other, was out there on a U.S. Open practice court late Tuesday afternoon, putting in some training time shortly after finishing off a 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory over 62nd-ranked Grega Zemlja of Slovenia in the first round.
At 32 and holding his lowest ranking, No. 7, in more than a decade, and coming off a stunningly early exit at the previous major tournament — one of a series of newsworthy losses lately — Federer is OK with making some concessions. He insists his passion for tennis is still there.
"I'm in a good spot right now," Federer said. "I want to enjoy it as long as it lasts."
He made it sound, though, as if it isn't as easy to enjoy things the way his results have been going.
Federer entered Tuesday 32-11, a .744 winning percentage that doesn't sound too bad, until you consider his career mark at the start of this season was .816, and he's had years where he went 81-4 (.953). and 92-5 (.948). He's only won one tournament in 2013, which would be great for some guys, but Federer topped 10 titles three times, and hasn't won fewer than three in any season since 2001.
"Clearly, when you win everything, it's fun. That doesn't necessarily mean you love the game more. You just like winning, being on the front page, lifting trophies, doing comfortable press conferences. It's nice. But that doesn't mean you really, actually love it, love it," said Federer, whose streak of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals ended with a second-round defeat at Wimbledon against an opponent ranked 116th. "That maybe shines through maybe more in times when you don't play that well. For me, I knew it — winning or losing, practice court or match court — that I love it."
On the women's side, seeded players on the way out were No. 17 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 20 Nadia Petrova and No. 31 Klara Zakopalova.
No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, the 2012 U.S. Open runner-up and a two-time Australian Open winner, needed 10 minutes and six break points to take the first game against 99th-ranked Dinah Pfizenmaier, then dominated the rest of the way en route to a 6-0, 6-0 victory.
"There are things, you know, I feel like should be better," Azarenka said. "But overall, it's a good start."
Now there's an understatement. Her 65-minute match in Arthur Ashe Stadium came after top-seeded Novak Djokovic began his bid for a second U.S. Open title, and seventh major trophy overall, with nearly as swift and simple a result, beating 112th-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
"I played every point like it's a match point," said Djokovic, who recently added former top-10 player Wojtek Fibak as a coaching consultant.
Other straight-set winners included No. 5 Tomas Berdych and No. 10 Milos Raonic. On a day that American men went 5-2, led by No. 13 John Isner and No. 26 Sam Querrey, a handful of seeded players made quick departures. No. 14 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland, a semifinalist at Wimbledon last month, was the most surprising to go, although he was treated by a trainer for a painful back during a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 loss to 247th-ranked qualifier Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina.
"It was like someone puts a knife through your lower back," Janowicz said.
Janowicz is a volatile character, and that was on full display Tuesday. He pounded two balls in anger into the stands. He swatted one serve underhand. He chucked his racket. He argued with the chair umpire.
Other losers included No. 15 Nicolas Almagro, No. 25 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 28 Juan Monaco.