Djokovic and Federer survive scares

 

Tennis:Roger Federer will know David Goffin for more than simply being his idol after the Belgian lucky loser gave him a real battle in the fourth round of the French Open.

The 21-year-old, the first lucky loser to reach this stage of a grand slam for 17 years, looked capable of causing a huge upset for nearly two sets before eventually going down 5-7 7-5 6-2 6-4.

Federer has now dropped sets in three successive matches and was again below his best, but he was good enough to extend his record of consecutive slam quarter-finals reached to 32.

When Goffin, who admitted after winning his previous match that he had had pictures of Federer on his bedroom wall as a child, was beating Josh Goodall in Belgium's Davis Cup victory over Great Britain in April, he looked a promising talent for the future.

That future came rather quicker than anyone imagined - including, presumably, Goffin, who lost in the final round of qualifying to Joao Sousa before being given a reprieve when Gael Monfils pulled out injured.

From there he has blossomed, beating Radek Stepanek, Arnaud Clement and Lukas Kubot in his first main draw appearance at a slam, and for a good while here it looked like he could do the unthinkable and defeat Federer.

Goffin showed no nerves on the biggest stage of his career and was clearly the better player in the first set. It looked like the 21-year-old might have blown his chance when he missed three chances to break in the sixth game, but he took his chance spectacularly with Federer serving to stay in the set.

Twice the 30-year-old held on but a third opportunity came and Goffin nailed a forehand winner down the line. The baby-faced Belgian continued to play at an extremely high level in the second set, and when Federer slumped to 15-30 at 4-5, Goffin was two points from a two-set lead.

For the first time the occasion seemed to get the better of him as he dumped a mid-court backhand into the net, and Federer made him pay by breaking in the very next game.

The third seed dug himself a hole with three errors to go from set point to break point but a superb serve got him out of trouble and he duly levelled the match.

Federer and his camp could breathe a little easier, and from there the 16-time grand slam champion was never really troubled, although he made heavy weather of the fourth set in particular.

That is to take nothing away from Goffin, who thoroughly entertained the Court Suzanne Lenglen crowd, bowing to all corners after winning one rally late in the final set and then joining Federer for an on-court interview.

"It's the biggest match of my life," Goffin said. "To play Roger here at Roland Garros. It was a bonus match for me, but I took a lot of pleasure on this court. I was a little bit nervous, of course, but I was feeling good. Physically I was good at the start of the match. So it was a great match.

"In the key moments he is always good. That's why he was number one for a lot of weeks. He served really good. I had one chance with my backhand and put it in the net, but I have no regrets. I did what I had to do."

Goffin made a lot of new fans, particularly with the rally that prompted him to bow.

"It was a great point," he said. "The lob and then the drop shot. All the stadium was on fire, so that's why I bowed. After a point like this, I didn't know what to do, so that's why I did it. But it was a great feeling."

Federer admitted the match could have gone the other way and he was hugely impressed by Goffin, who he tipped as a potential top-20 player.

"I thought he played really well," said the third seed. "He took the ball early every time. He's got great potential in terms of his touch and the way he reads the game. I think he can go very far. He's very talented. And I hope he can make it to the top 20. That would be great."

Earlier, Novak Djokovic avoided a huge upset by fighting back from two sets to love down against Italy's Andreas Seppi. It was the seventh successive five-set match that Djokovic, who has not lost before the quarter-finals of a slam for three years, has won and the third time he has fought back from two sets down in his career.