Easy does it as Federer waltzes into French Open quarter-finals
Federer will now face a resurgent Stan Wawrinka - Rafa Nadal continues his quest for a 12th title
Roger Federer of Switzerland plays a backhand during his fourth-round match against Leonardo Mayer of Argentina at the French Open at Roland Garros. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Roger Federer’s dream return to the French Open continued as the Swiss waltzed into quarter-finals by giving Argentine Leonardo Mayer a 6-2 6-3 6-3 masterclass on Sunday.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, back at Roland Garros after a three-year hiatus, edged closer to a potential semi-final showdown with champion Rafael Nadal by cruising through the opening rounds seemingly unchallenged and his last-16 encounter was no exception.
Things are likely to get trickier for Federer from now on as the third seed will next face a resurgent Stan Wawrinka, who beat the sixth-seeded Greek 7-6 (6) 5-7 6-4 3-6 8-6 in a bruising five-hour match.
On Sunday, however, it appeared as if Federer was enjoying a leisurely stroll in the Parisian sun.
After just over an hour, Federer was already two sets up.
The 37-year-old played effortlessly, smacking winners around the court with self-confidence.
Mayer offered some semblance of resistance in the third set until the sixth game, when Federer broke decisively, ending his opponent’s ordeal on the first match point.
“Big serving, windy, it was tough conditions. We didn’t have many baseline rallies that were sort of neutral,” said Federer.
“Either one was always pressing and the other guy was defending.”
It was Mayer who did most of the defending against Federer, who won his only French Open title 10 years ago.
Federer showed off his repertoire – the single-handed backhand, some chip-and-charge tennis, sliced backhands – to dispatch the Argentine on Court Philippe Chatrier.
With the Big Three – Federer, Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic – showing little signs of giving up their stranglehold of men’s tennis, the Swiss is aware that when they do eventually retire, it will leave a gaping hole in the sport.
“It’s hard to reinvent the wheel. But of course maybe Rafa, Novak, and me, we have something special, whatever that is. It’s maybe a combination of many things,” said Federer.
“But sure, I think a lot of my fans or Novak’s fans or Rafa’s fans, when either one of us retires, we’ll feel a bit of a void. But I think it will just take a few years after that to fall in love with another player.
“Because if you love tennis, you don’t love the game because of one player. I think it’s because of the sport and what it does to you and how you feel about it.”
Wawrinka thumped 62 winners as he outlasted Tsitsipas in a “battle of the backhands”.
Wawrinka, who beat his fellow countryman in straight sets en route to the 2015 French Open title, clinched victory on his second match point, with a backhand that landed on the line on a sun-soaked Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Both armed with a blistering single-handed backhand, the match between the 34-year-old Wawrinka, three-times Grand Slam winner, and the 20-year-old Tsitsipas, who had been trying to become the first Greek player to reach the Roland Garros quarter-finals, more than lived up to its billing.
Having dropped the first set on a double fault, the swashbuckling Greek won a dramatic 77-minute second on his sixth set point, having squandered a 3-1 and 5-3 lead.
The best rally of the match came during a see-saw 13-minute game at 5-4 in the second set, with Wawrinka ripping groundstrokes and smashes as Tsitsipas retrieved.
The Swiss, who had two knee surgeries in 2017, prevailed with a backhand drop shot that touched the net on the 23rd shot, to a standing ovation from the crowd.
After splitting the third and fourth sets, the 28th-seeded Wawrinka stamped his authority on his younger opponent, who had squandered three break points at 5-5 in the decider.
Serving to stay in the match at 6-7, Tsitsipas dumped a forehand into the net to hand his opponent two match points and Wawrinka took advantage to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final since the 2017 French Open where he went on to make the final.
Nadal ended the dream run of French Open debutant Juan Ignacio Londero with a typically dominant 6-2 6-3 6-3 victory to power into the quarter-finals.
In hot and breezy conditions, the Spaniard looked once again produced claycourt tennis of the highest quality to make the last eight of a Grand Slam event for the 38th time.
The tone was set when he broke the 25-year-old Londero’s serve in the second game of the Court Philippe Chatrier duel and while his 78th-ranked opponent never threw in the towel he could only try to delay the inevitable.
Londero had a break point early in the third set but Nadal stamped out that danger and broke in the very next game to close in on victory.
With his eyes fixed firmly on claiming a 12th French Open title next Sunday he seemed eager to finish the job swiftly, but after moving 4-1 ahead in the third set he dropped serve for the first time in the match.
Nadal’s pace appeared to drop ever so slightly and Londero even sensed another break two games later when heavy hitting got him to 0-30 on the second seed’s serve, but Nadal reeled off four consecutive points, holding with an ace.
He finished the match with a signature forehand to set up a clash with Kei Nishikori or Benoit Paire.
MEN’S SINGLES FOURTH ROUND
(3) Roger Federer (Swi) bt Leonardo Mayer (Arg) 6-2 6-3 6-3
(2) Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Juan Ignacio Londero (Arg) 6-2 6-3 6-3
(24) Stan Wawrinka (Swi) bt (6) Stefanos Tsitsipas (Gre) 7-6 (6) 5-7 6-4 3-6 8-6