For the second straight Grand Slam Roger Federer had to come back from the brink to stay alive. Last month at the French Open the Swiss knocked out Juan Martin Del Potro in five sets after the Argentine led 2-0. Today, the opposition was Juliean Benneteau. The Frenchman is no where near as formidable as Del Potro, but he too had Federer ominously by the throat leading by two sets. Yet it wasn’t enough.
Federer, for the eighth time in his illustrious career, chipped away and eventually wore down a cramping Benneteau to win 4-6, 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-1.
“I did start to play better and better as the match went on, and that’s kind of what I expected of myself once a set down or two sets to love down,” said Federer who will return to No. 1 with a seventh Wimbledon title. “That I guess comes with experience, but also experience alone is not going to win you the match. I had to push deep and extremely hard, and I’m very happy with the way things sort of happened at the end.”
After breezing the first two rounds losing just nine games, Federer looked “dodgy” for much of the match today. Benneteau played well but I though Roger’s shots didn’t have much on them and his movement was again subpar.
“He played well. Mentally he’s a rock you know,” Benneteau said. “He’s two sets down and he doesn’t show anything. After that if your level is a little bit lower, right here, right now he takes the opportunity. He has a capacity also to improve his game during the match. So you have to be focused every point, every point against him. If you don’t make the right shot tactically you lose the point almost. So it’s tough.”
For me the turning point came early in the third when Benneteau slipped and landed awkwardly. He wasn’t injured but the fall disrupted his momentum and Federer took advantage, and really never let up.
Benneteau hung in the fourth coming within two points of victory but the nerves got the better of him. In the fifth, Federer’s experience and fitness pulled him through. It’s best of five for a reason – Benneteau had beaten Federer in three in Paris of 2009 – and Roger’s that good in the clutch. How manytitles does Benneteau have? That’s right, zero.
“Two sets down and he’s a champion,” Benneteau added. “He arrived to win the match in five sets and he was not in control. I think he was a little bit panicked but not comfortable. But at the end of the day he’s here. He doesn’t make any mistakes. At the end of the fourth set his serve was incredible.”
Despite his poor play, luckily for Federer there’s little resistance in his path on Monday with Xavier Malisse, who he leads 9-1, and then maybe on Wednesday another pigeon, Mikhail Youzhny.
Still, like the French, Federer will have to play better and I think he will.
Fed’s main rival Novak Djokovic took care of Radek Stepanek in four sets. Djokovic looked scratchy early before getting into gear and rolling the Czech 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
“I was trying to focus from the start of my match,” the defending champ said. “Obviously I had a lot of chances in the opening set. But being aware of his qualities and experience, I wasn’t too surprised with the way he played in important moments. He was mentally very composed. He was out there to win a match. I was a set down, but managed to make the crucial break in the opening game of the second set, and then I thought I played really well.”
Novak moves on to meet fellow Serb Viktor Troicki who beat Juan Monaco in straight sets.
Richard Gasquet, who could meet Djokovic in the quarters, also advanced along with Denis Istomin and Florian Mayer, a five-set winner over the towering Jerzy Janowicz.
Tomorrow, Andy Murray is back but this time as the favorite to come out of the bottom half. Murray battles Marcos Baghdatis who beat Andy in their first meeting at Wimbledon many years ago. I like Marcos as a player but Murray should get through easily.
I also like JW Tsonga to roll past Lukas Lacko and Phil Kohlschreiber to end the run of Nadal-killer Lukas Rosol. The 26-year-old Rosol must be… well, I don’t know but after pulling one of the greatest upsets in tennis history I just don’t think he can back it up against the experienced German.
The other matches, however, are awfully close to call. I think David Ferrer nips Andy Roddick. Roddick just hasn’t impressed me with that baseline game and his serve isn’t biting on the grass like it use to. So advantage Ferrer.
If Fish is fit after that five-setter against James Ward I’ll take him over David Goffin. I’ll give a slight edge to Brian Baker over Benoit Paire but the Frenchman who is a joy to watch.
And I’ll go with Marin Cilic to again beat Sam Querrey on grass and I’ll take Juan Martin Del Potro to edge Kei Nishikori, though I really think Kei could land the upset.
ESPN against has coverage on Saturday starting at 7am ET.
SATURDAY WIMBLEDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 1:00 PM Start Time
Serena Williams (USA) v. Jie Zheng (CHN)
David Ferrer (ESP) v. Andy Roddick (USA)
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) v. Andy Murray (GBR)
No. 1 Court 1:00 PM Start Time
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) v. Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Kei Nishikori (JPN) v. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v. Lukas Lacko (SVK)
No. 2 Court 11:30 AM Start Time
Ana Ivanovic (SRB) v. Julia Goerges (GER)
Jana Cepelova (SVK) v. Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Marin Cilic (CRO) v. Sam Querrey (USA)
Maria Kirilenko (RUS) v. Serena Williams (USA)
Nadia Petrova (RUS) Venus Williams (USA)
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