Imperious Roger Federer eases into Wimbledon fourth round

Brian O’Driscoll watches from Royal Box as Swiss dispatches Sam Groth in four sets

Pomp and circumstance launched Wimbledon's sporting Saturday with a host of stars announced to adoring crowds, before Centre Court's real king Roger Federer quickly reclaimed the limelight.

The Swiss seven-time champion marched imperiously past Australian Sam Groth 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5/7) 6-2, with nine-time SW19 queen Martina Navratilova watching on from the Royal Box.

Electrical storms overnight eased Wimbledon’s stifling heatwave, but on court Australia’s 6ft 4in specimen Groth threw down the real thunderbolts.

The 27-year-old produced the second-fastest serve ever at Wimbledon, at 147mph in just his second service game of the match.


Groth boasts tennis’ fastest serve of all time at 163mph, and duly bumped Andy Roddick’s 146mph effort from 2004 into third place.

Milos Raonic briefly held Wimbledon's third-fastest serve this week with 145mph in his second-round encounter with Tommy Haas.

The Canadian hardly had time to lay claim to a place in the top three, however, with Groth’s monster strike nudging him down the pecking order too.

American Taylor Dent has somehow clung on to his record Wimbledon serve of 148mph, that he fired down in 2010.

Federer kept his latest quest for a record eighth Wimbledon crown bang on track, however, setting up a fourth-round meeting with 20th seed Roberto Bautista-Agut.

Four years ago Groth quit tennis for a crack at Australian Rules Football after a nasty shoulder injury and the breakdown of his marriage to fellow tennis star Jarmila Gajdosova.

A stint in Vermont Eagles’ second string preceded half a season of top-level action, before Groth missed tennis’ individual mental challenge.

Since his return a year later he has steadily climbed the rankings, reaching a career-high of 66 before this tournament.

Groth pushed the match into a fourth set, claiming the third via a tie-break when all in attendance expected a peremptory finish from the Swiss master.

The ageless Federer quickly re-summoned his trademark other-worldly Wimbledon persona though, to glide into SW19’s second week for the 12th time in 13 years.

Vermont reserves coach Jeff Rudd purred "physically he's got it all" when Groth made his short-lived Aussie Rules move.

“It’s only a matter of learning where to run on the ground, and getting your touch and that sort of thing,” continued Groth’s one-time sport-switch mentor.

Touch could remain the difference between Groth circling tennis’ true big guns and numbering among them — and it is that intangible quality with which Federer dominated this match.

Former British and Irish Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll — rugby’s most-capped player of all time — also popped up in the Royal Box, underlining Federer’s undeniable imprint on the world’s greatest tennis tournament.

“It’s hard not to be impressed with Federer,” said O’Driscoll.

“His charisma, his grace and his movement around the court is just so special.”

Last year Federer agonisingly blew his best chance yet for that elusive eighth crown, losing out in five sets to Novak Djokovic.

Every year without that landmark lengthens Federer's odds of overhauling fellow seven-time winner Pete Sampras.

But a slight chink of light in Federer’s section of the draw and yet more controlled play on his favourite surface ensures the 17-time grand slam champion remains a definite title-contender.

Andy Murray is the last Briton standing in the singles at Wimbledon after he overcame a third-set blip to beat Italy's Andreas Seppi and book his place in the fourth round.

Murray looked on course for a comfortable victory after winning the opening two sets with ease but two medical time-outs, one for each player, dictated changes in momentum before the Scot came through 6-2 6-2 1-6 6-1.

Croatia’s 23rd seed Ivo Karlovic now awaits Murray in the fourth round, as the 28-year-old continues his bid for a second Wimbledon title.

Elsewhere Rafael Nadal's Wimbledon conqueror Dustin Brown failed to follow up his shock win over the Spaniard as he was beaten in four sets by 22nd seed Viktor Troicki.

Brown, who used to save money by travelling to tournaments in a camper van, stunned Nadal with an exhilarating second-round display on Centre Court, but the success story came to a swift end as Troicki sealed a 6-4 7-6 (7/3) 4-6 6-3 victory.

The Serbian will now play either Britain's James Ward or Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the last 16 and is one win away from a potential reunion with Andy Murray, to whom he lost in the semi-finals at Queen's two weeks ago.