Federer on fast track in pursuit of history

Former champion shows no flicker of weakness as he powers towards record

Paul Newman
Wednesday 02 April 2014 03:14

Perhaps Roger Federer wanted to check that all was well with his heavily pregnant wife, Mirka, who was feeling under the weather and had decided not to go on court for his second-round match against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Perhaps he needed time to work on his Facebook page, which he updates personally. Perhaps he had to meet designers to discuss his next on-court outfit.

Whatever the reason, the five-times Wimbledon champion was in a hurry here yesterday. Although he never demeaned himself by actually breaking sweat, Federer went about his business yesterday like a man on a mission. The former world No 1's 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win took just an hour and 29 minutes as he took another stride towards his goal of beating Pete Sampras's all-time record of 15 Grand Slam titles with victory here in 10 days time.

Federer played beautifully, crushing an opponent who has been enjoying the best grass-court season of his career. In the third round he meets Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat the Czech Republic's Ivo Minar 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2, 8-6.

Mirka has been an almost permanent courtside fixture during Federer's matches over the years, but yesterday she was missing. "She's just not feeling 100 per cent," Federer said after the match. "She only felt 95 per cent, so we decided it's better if she takes it easy instead of sitting in the sun, maybe feeling worse the next day. It's important for her to rest. She's already feeling better, which is good."

Federer has never revealed publicly the date when their first baby is expected and when a reporter asked him if it was "till 10 August, more or less" he replied: "I never said it. I don't know who told you, but you can speculate as much as you want."

Yesterday's victory was even more impressive than Federer's opening win over Yen-Hsun Lu. Although Garcia-Lopez prefers clay, the 26-year-old Spaniard did not look out of place on grass and is enjoying a good year, having won his first title last month at Kitzbuhel.

The world No 42 has an easy, languid style and won his first-round match against Agustin Calleri for the loss of only seven games. He made the third round here last year, reached the same stage at Queen's Club a fortnight ago, when he lost to Andy Murray, and played in his first grass-court semi-final last week at Eastbourne, losing to Dmitry Tursunov. He trains with Juan Carlos Ferrero, a former world No 1.

Garcia-Lopez must have known he was in trouble from the moment he served a double fault on the opening point, though he went on to win the first game. Federer broke in the third and fifth games and took the first set in just 27 minutes, converting his first set point with an exquisite winning forehand. It was struck from inside the tramlines on his backhand flank and was hit so early that it was virtually a half-volley.

In the second game of the second set Garcia-Lopez forced his only break points of the whole match. Federer saved the first with an ace and the second with a service winner, both drilled wide to the Spaniard's backhand. In the following game the Swiss broke serve with a beautiful backhand cross-court pass.

Having broken again to lead 5-2, Federer served out for the set. Not even the line judges could help Garcia-Lopez. On set point Federer fired an ace down the middle, only for it to be called wide, but the umpire immediately overruled him.

Another early break saw Federer take command of the third set and at 5-3 he converted his first match point with a service winner. Federer strolled to the net, took off his headband, shook the hands of Garcia-Lopez and the umpire and acknowledged the crowd's applause. He looked as if he had gone for nothing more strenuous than a gentle stroll around Wimbledon Park.

The Swiss said he was surprised that he had won so easily. "I felt good," he said. "I expected it would be much harder because he's been playing well in Eastbourne. He reached the semis there. And I've played him twice before. He has a good forehand and a steady backhand. On grass, you never know."

His post-match press conference over, it was time, perhaps, for Federer to open up his laptop. He has been updating his Facebook page on a regular basis since arriving here last week. Before the tournament started he went on to Centre Court to see the new sliding roof and had a photograph taken, which he then posted on his Facebook page.

"I obviously have a person who helps me do it, because I can't go on it all the time," Federer said. "But I try to update it as frequently as I can. It's a fun thing and has given me a lot of pleasure lately. It's amazing how the fan base grows quickly. There are so many fantastic fans, not only on Facebook. I think we're close to two million fans over there and 250,000 fans on my own website.

"I like to interact with them. The fans mean a lot to me. They support me so much – not only by internet, but also in the stadium, I can feel that. It's a way to thank them."

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