Wimbledon: Roger Federer continues exhibition of brilliance

Opening set against Adrian Mannarino was more akin to performance art

 Roger Federer  serves against Adrian Mannarino  during their men’s singles fourth-round match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Photograph:  Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Roger Federer serves against Adrian Mannarino during their men’s singles fourth-round match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

 

Less a dramatic battle on Centre Court than 16 minutes of something resembling performance art, Roger Federer’s first set against Adrian Mannarino was a mid-tournament glimpse at the spectrum of shot making that has given him eight Wimbledon titles.

The irony was that in the sixth game of that terribly brief 6-0 first set, Federer faced his first break point of the tournament.

While he is ranked just 16th in the ace department, which John Isner leads with 135, Federer has delivered just three double faults so far with 92 per cent of his first serves won. Almost chilling statistics.

But like the rest of his game against Mannarino, the player who was fined by Wimbledon last year for bumping a ball boy in a fit of French petulance, Federer was for that 16 minutes machine-tooled precision. It crafted the way for a 6-0 7-5 6-4 straight set victory. Few bump Federer on Centre Court.

Another embellishment to his advance to the quarter-finals, which adds to the chill factor, is that the Swiss player has not dropped a set at Wimbledon since 2016.

“I don’t think it’s something anybody aims for, is to win every match in straight sets,” said Federer. “It helps me for the season, to save energy. It helps me to save energy for the rest of the tournament.”

Not wanting to hex himself for the coming days, Federer was careful to steer clear of looking beyond South Africa’s first-time quarter-finalist Kevin Anderson after his 7-6 (4) 7-6(2) 5-7 7-6 (4) win over France’s Gael Monfils. Not even for a World Cup.

Wimbledon are fully aware that the World Cup final and the men’s final clash. There can be only one winner in that and if England make it through against Croatia . . . well in London they are daring to dream.

“It’s going to happen anyway, if I’m going in the final or not, the Wimbledon final will take place, and so will the World Cup final,” said Federer smiling.

Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his men’s singles fourth-round match against Jiri Vesely at Wimbledon. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal celebrates winning his men’s singles fourth-round match against Jiri Vesely at Wimbledon. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

A win here would bring him up to nine Wimbledon titles, the same as record holder Martina Navratilova. They are both two behind Rafa Nadal and Margaret Court on 11 wins in the same Grand Slam event; Nadal with 11 titles at Roland Garros and Court with 11 wins at the Australian Open.

As much as Federer was floating as effortlessly as ever and racing beyond his opponent, so too was Nadal in a fast forward mode, hitting Czech left-hander Jiri Vesely out of the tournament 6-3 6-3 6-4.

The Spaniard, fresh from a smoking clay court campaign and French Open win, comically banged his head on a beam while jumping in a pre-match warm up routine at the same stage last year.

He then went out and was KO’d by Gilles Muller 15-13 in the fifth set. At 32, Nadal is nothing if not a pragmatist and understands the differences between working grass and clay.

“Personally, I see the players that are favoured to be in the final rounds here are still here,” he said. “I see Novak here. I see Del Potro here. I see Roger, Raonic, Isner, good servers. I don’t see lot of players from clay in that quarter-finals.”

Never a excuse maker, Nadal also knows why he hasn’t won at Wimbledon since 2010. But now in his first quarter-final for seven years, there is perspective.

“To be fair and honest, we have to think about the things that happened,” he said. “[In] 2012, 2013, I was not able to compete. Even if I played, I was not able to compete with the knees the way I had,” he said, suggesting that all is good with his body this year.

“2014, I played a good tournament. I lost in the fourth round against a player I can lose, like Kyrgios that I had set points to be two sets to one up. 2015 was a very bad year for me not on grass, in most of the surfaces. It’s normal that I lost here, too. In 2016 I didn’t play because of my wrist. 2017 I played well.”

And 2018 playing well again. Just like Federer, just like Djokovic, who initially sped past Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-2 and then hit a burst of early evening push back from the Russian before going up a gear for 6-2 in the third.

But the Serb, seeded 12, is growing in mood and stature in each round. Next round opponent Kei Nishikori will know it.

And the big servers are lurking too in Anderson, Isner and Raonic, who fired 37 aces and 74 winners to defeat MacKenzie McDonald of the United States and reach his fourth quarter-final. The 27-year-old Canadian, who was runner-up to Andy Murray in 2016, took four sets 6-3 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-2.

Del Potro’s match against Simon was suspended due to bad light, Del Potro leading 2-1.

MEN’S FOURTH-ROUND RESULTS
(1) Roger Federer (Swi) bt (22) Adrian Mannarino (Fra) 6-0 7-5 6-4
(2) Rafael Nadal (Esp) bt Jiri Vesely (Cze) 6-3 6-3 6-4
(8) Kevin Anderson (Rsa) bt Gael Monfils (Fra) 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-2) 5-7 7-6 (7-4)
(9) John Isner (USA) bt (31) Stefanos Tsitsipas (Gre) 6-4 7-6 (10-8) 7-6 (7-4)
(12) Novak Djokovic (Ser) bt Karen Khachanov 6-4 6-2 6-2
(13) Milos Raonic (Can) bt MacKenzie McDonald (USA) 6-3 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-2
(24) Kei Nishikori (Jpn) bt Ernests Gulbis (Lat) 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (12-10) 6-1

To finish
(5) Juan Martin Del Potro (Arg) leads Gilles Simon (Fra) 2-1 (7-6 7-6 5-7)

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