Ruthless Federer tempers hopes of title pretenders

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The Independent Online

Eight nationalities, five native tongues, four Grand Slam winners and no unseeded players for the first time since 1975. Today's men's quarter-finals promise contrasts and quality across the board. Yet for seven of the contenders, there remains one reason to temper their hopes - Roger Federer.

The Swiss world No1, champion here for the last two years, has not lost on grass for 33 matches in a run dating back to 2002. Only Bjorn Borg's run of 41 straight wins on the surface - between 1976 and 1981 - betters that in the Open era. And to add stress to statistics, Federer has looked comfortably superior to each of his four opponents so far, lifting his game as and when necessary to eliminate them.

Today he faces Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, the only player yet to drop a set this year. (Federer lost one on a tie-break to Nicolas Keifer). "I never thought I could play well on grass so I have nothing to lose," Gonzalez said.

Federer put that in context with the observation that "I was close to losing a set to him at the French". Not a match, obviously. "But grass should favour me," Federer added.

"I'm looking forward to playing him. He's always got good shots for the crowd. I think we'll see some good tennis."

The winner of their quarter-final will meet either Australia's Lleyton Hewitt or Spain's Feliciano Lopez. In the bottom half of the draw Sweden's Thomas Johansson meets Argentina's David Nalbandian, while America's Andy Roddick plays France's Sébastien Grosjean.

It is the third year running that the quarter-finalists have come from eight different countries, but the first time in the Open era that three of them are native Spanish speakers.

Roddick and Johansson join Federer in knowing what it is like to win a Slam, but neither have done so on grass. Hewitt has, here three years ago, and the next step in repeating the feat is getting past Lopez, the only leftie still in the tournament.

"He's one of the best players in the world," said Lopez of Hewitt. "It's going to be a tough match." He knows that experience, having lost to Hewitt at last year's US Open. What he might not know is that Hewitt, the world No 2 but No3 seed here, has won his last 18 matches against left-handers.

"It's easy to dream but I just want to play as well as I did in the last round," Lopez said.

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