NEW YORK – Roger Federer nearly saw the highest-ranked obstacle in his path to the US Open semi-finals eliminated in the first round, but Robin Soderling survived a Monday struggle against a Grand Slam debutante.
French Open runner-up Soderling outlasted 214th-ranked Austrian qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (2/7), 5-7, 6-4 after three hours and 52 minutes. He will next face American Taylor Dent or Colombian Alejandro Falla.
Swedish fifth seed Soderling ousted Federer in a French Open quarter-final, ending the Swiss star's run of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals, and the two are on course to meet in the US Open quarter-finals if form holds.
Also advancing on day one of the year's last Slam were Russian sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko, who beat American Michael Russell 6-4, 6-1, 6-3, and US ninth seed Andy Roddick, who ousted France's Stephane Robert 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.
World number two Federer, seeking his 17th Grand Slam title and seventh consecutive trip to the US Open final, was set to face Argentina's Brian Dabul in a night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Federer's run of five consecutive US Open titles was ended last year by Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro, who is injured and not defending his title.
Soderling squandered four match points in the third set but rallied in the fifth to dispatch 214th-ranked Haider-Maurer, a 23-year-old who fired 34 aces past the first top-10 opponent of his career.
"It was a tough match in tough conditions," Soderling said. "I wanted to finish it in three when I had the match points. But it's better to win it in five than lose it in five."
Soderling, never beyond the final eight at a US Open, fell behind 4-1 but won six of the last seven games in the first set and seized a 4-1 edge en route to taking the second set as well.
Haider-Maurer saved four match points in the third set and jumped to a 6-1 lead in the tie-break to force a fourth set. When Soderling netted a forehand smash to surrender a break and the fourth set, he was pushed to the brink.
"Definitely I had a strong chance," Haider-Maurer said.
Soderling broke in the fifth game of the final set and served out for the triumph, although Haider-Maurer hit 58 winners to Soderling's 44 and made 65 unforced errors to 74 by the Swede, who felt fine despite the endurance test.
"I feel pretty good physically. I had almost four good hours of practice. That wasn't so bad," Soderling said. "I can play better. I've played worse. I will work hard and hopefully I will play better in my next match."
Davydenko, whose best US Open runs came in 2006 and 2007 when he lost to eventual champion Federer in the semi-finals, will next face Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who defeated Germany's Simon Greul 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
"I am happy," Davydenko said. "There are some small things I need to do before my second match. For sure I can play better.
"I remember I was playing not so good here and twice I made the semi-final but in the beginning I was just fighting step by step and was a little lucky."
Davydenko was sidelined for three months with a broken left wrist suffered at Indian Wells last March and has struggled since then, winning back-to-back matches only once to leave him uncertain about stamina if five sets are needed.
"I don't know if my physical condition is good for five sets. I need to see in more matches," Davydenko said.
"Before my injury I felt much more confidence and much stronger. If you play matches you feel like top 10. I don't feel like I'm a top 10 player now at this time. When I get more matches, I can tell if I'm playing like a top-10 player."
Roddick advanced on his 28th birthday, saying, "It's a number. I'm barely older than I was yesterday", and indicated he is still feeling the effects of mononucleosis that has slowed him for months.
"I'm not sure of percentages. I have my days. I feel 80 percent better than I did five or six weeks ago, that's for sure," Roddick said.
"Once you decide to play, you throw away the other things. It's not perfect but it's fine. It's going the right way."
Kei Nishikori advanced when Kazak rival Evgeny Korolev retired with a right elbow injury with the 147th-ranked Japanese qualifier ahead 7-6 (7/0), 5-2. Nishikori next faces Croatian 11th seed Marin Cilic.
Croatian qualifier Ivan Dodig, ranked 146th, advanced when Chilean 27th seed Fernando Gonzalez retired with a knee injury trailing 6-7 (2/7), 6-1, 1-0.