'Aggressive' Federer cruises into quarters

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The Independent Online

Roger Federer has never been one to dwell on losses. When his extraordinary sequence of 23 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals ended with defeat in the last eight of the recent French Open, his reaction was typical. "Now I guess I've got the quarter-final streak going," the Swiss said.

That latest run was extended to 25 with a crushing 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 victory here yesterday over Jürgen Melzer. The last time Federer failed to reach the quarter-finals of any Grand Slam event was at the 2004 French Open, when he lost to Gustavo Kuerten, the top seed.

There have been times over the last eight days when Federer has looked anything but the record-breaking greatest player of all time, but nobody knows the art of peaking at the right time better than the Swiss. Having come back from two sets down for the first time here to beat Alejandro Falla in the opening round, Federer went on to beat Ilija Bozoljac in four sets in the second and yesterday swept Melzer aside with even more ease than he disposed of Arnaud Clement in straight sets in the third.

If he claims a seventh Wimbledon crown on Sunday, which would put him level with the record held by William Renshaw and Pete Sampras, Federer would be only the second player in the Open era (after Pat Rafter at the 1998 US Open) to win a Grand Slam title after going two sets down in his opening match.

Having avoided any opponent ranked in the world's top 50 in his first three rounds, Federer might have expected a stronger challenge from 29-year-old Melzer, who at No 16 is currently at his highest ever position in the rankings. The Austrian, however, made far too many mistakes, his forehand in particular regularly letting him down.

The contest was so one-sided that for long periods the Centre Court was as quiet as a meeting of the Fabio Capello appreciation society. Federer, who now plays Tomas Berdych, won the opening six points, raced into a 3-0 lead and suffered his only lapse when Melzer converted his first and only break point of the match in the fifth game, courtesy of a well-judged lob. The defending champion broke back immediately, however, and two breaks of serve in both the second and third sets completed victory in 84 minutes.

"I thought I played great," Federer said afterwards. "I was aggressive right from the start, which I think was key today because I knew every chance Melzer was going to get, he was going to hit the ball and come forward. You want to counter that and play aggressively yourself."

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