You are two sets down to the greatest grass court player in tennis history. Now what?
When Victor Hanescu was drawn to play Roger Federer in the opening round at Wimbledon he must have dreamed of emulating Lukas Rosol, who caused the shock of Wimbledon 2012 when knocking out Rafa Nadal. Maybe he could catch The Fed cold. After 52 minutes' play that ambition was long gone. At 3-6, 2-6 down did he go for his shots, settle for enjoying the moment, or try and hang in?
The Romanian sat on his chair, wiped his face, stared into the middle distance, wiped his face again, pulled up his socks, took a drink of water, then wiped his face of sweat one more time before walking back on court under the gaze of Condoleezza Rice and Pippa Middleton (what a conversation that would be to eavesdrop on).
Ten minutes later he was 4-0 down in the third. The weather was cold but Federer was hot. If Hanescu stayed back Federer maneuvered him around the court until he missed a return. If he went forward he was passed, or found Federer's returns thumped at his toes. One exchange of drop shots ended with Federer reading Hanescu and feathering a return into open court with Hanescu wrong-footed. Humiliation beckoned, so much so there was aloud cheer from the Centre Court crowd when, after losing 14 successive points, Hanescu lobbed Federer so well the Swiss did not even attempt to scurry a return.
That was a sign of how Hanescu, now aged 31 and 48th in the world, once broke the top 30. But its rarity showed how great is the gulf between the leading players and the rest. Broken three times Hanescu lost the third set 6-0 in 18 minutes winning just four points. He sent a final return well wide, shook hands, received a pat on the back from Federer, then packed his bags. At the exit Federer stopped to sign autographs, no one asked for Hanescu's.
Afterwards Federer, in a press conference that lasted far longer than the third set, said generously :”If he serves well and plays big he can hang with you a long time. I packed my bag for five sets. We have seen surprise losses too often in the first round so I am happy things went well out there”
There are much tougher tests ahead but in this form even the prospect of meeting Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in succession will not faze The Fed.