Hewitt still grinding away at a champion made from granite

The answers, from where I was sitting, were possibly, probably and definitely. Federer is not himself much of an entertainer, at least in the sense that there are no exciting tantrums, no banter with the crowd, no hilarious press conferences, but by heavens he plays scintillating tennis.

He has now won his last 35 matches on grass, drawing ever closer to the all-comers' record of 41, established by one Bjorn Borg. And he is reminiscent of Borg in other ways, too, having overcome a volatile temperament to exude a Zen-like calm on court. He also has Borg's athleticism, seeming to defy gravity in retrieving several of Lleyton Hewitt's overheads.

But the most important commodity he has is time. Like the greatest batsmen, he appears to make a split-second last longer, an invaluable asset when the ball is travelling towards him at up to 140mph. Not only did he miraculously reach some neatly executed Hewitt drop-shots, he somehow found the time to decide how to return them.

Hewitt did not play badly. He missed too many first serves, but hit some wonderful groundstrokes and covered the court like a panther. Yet nor, in truth, did the champion play quite as well as he can. He too struggled with his first serve, and his forehand went missing for a period in the first set, which was like Michelangelo losing his sense of perspective. He also mistimed a number of backhands, which was like Einstein struggling to find the square root of 16. But both came dramatically good when he needed them.

Indeed, it was a measure of Federer's dominance that when Hewitt led 6-5 and 0-30 in the third set, everyone still knew that it would be easier for the No 3 seed to break into the vaults of the Bank of England than back into the match. It is his misfortune, and Andy Roddick's, to be a wonderful player in the age of Federer. They should meet up with Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, who have the same problem with Tiger Woods.

"You've just got to bide your time, keep grinding away," said Hewitt in his post-match interview. Neither Sir David Frost nor Michael Parkinson, both of whom were in the royal box yesterday, would have got much more out of him. One hapless hack asked him how he manages to stay positive, having now been beaten by Federer eight times in a row. "I don't know; that's probably why I'm sitting here and you're sitting there," he said, gnomically.

Federer, predictably, was a little more cheerful. "I'm surprised it was straight sets because I thought it would be four or five, he said. He was the only one who did, and if the 23-year-old has not, by tomorrow evening, joined Borg, Fred Perry and Pete Sampras in winning the men's singles title three or more times consecutively here, then it will count, as the time-honoured cliché goes, as the shock of the championships so far.

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