While a lot of the tennis world was still shaking its head over the great shock of Rafael Nadal’s early exit (and, of course, of the completely insane level of Lukas Rosol, particularly in the fifth set), it seemed that drama was again on the agenda on Wimbledon’s Centre Court today, as Roger Federer had to overcome a two-set deficit to finally get the better of an inspired Julien Benneteau, 4-6 6-7(3) 6-2 7-6(6) 6-1.
It was a very close call for the six-time champion, as Benneteau started the match strongly, going for his shots, painting the lines, and serving well, whereas Federer was moving somewhat clumsily, making a lot of unforced errors, all in all, not being as crisp as he was in his two previous matches.
Then again, Julien Benneteau is more experienced than Albert Ramos and Fabio Fognini and he seemed, at least during the first two sets and the fourth, to have found a way to crack the Federer serve, something we do not see very often.
It is with his back to the wall that Federer suddenly seemed to, somehow, wake up. Or, rather, that Benneteau’s level dropped, which wasn’t helped with a little fright he got after slipping and falling hardly at the beginning of the third set, which completely disrupted his rhythm.
The fourth set was a much tighter affair, neither man surrendering his serve, all the way to a highly contested tiebreak, which the Swiss finally took after having been up mini-breaks twice, each time to give it back with unforced errors.
Federer taking the fourth set also definitely ended the Frenchman’s battle, as Benneteau started suffering from cramps early in the final set. With his legs cramping, unable to push himself up properly on serve, he got broken twice after an initial hold, thus making this thriller end on a sad, discordant note.
Close to the impossible after seeming close to… retirement
Julien Benneteau’s incredible performance today needs to be celebrated in more ways than one.
First of all, the Frenchman has a great season, the best of his career, and the level of play he showed today reflects exactly that: he’s playing with more confidence in his shots, and the results are there to show it.
Second of all, Benneteau, not two months ago, seemed much closer to retirement than to this kind of performance, after a nasty fall in Monte Carlo left him with a broken elbow and twisted ligaments in his ankle. In fact, he wasn’t even sure to play the Olympics. What a surprise to see him ready for Roland Garros, and playing well at that!
That’s a bit why, despite the loss, I think it was a huge victory for Benneteau, scaring Roger Federer on a surface where he triumphed so many times, and playing the way he played for three out of five sets. He came really close to causing a second immense shock in as many days, and he deserves all credit for it.
Should we worry about Federer?
Does his match today give us cause to worry about Roger Federer? I don’t think so. It’s not the first time he’s pushed to the limit by an opponent (it was the eighth time today), and if it cost him last year, as he went from 2-0 to end up losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals, this time, he came out the victor.
I personally think that if he’s well physically, he still can fight for the big prize at the end… as long as the focus remains.
Tomorrow marks the beginning of the Junior portion of the tournament and, among others, Canadian Filip Peliwo (4) will be among the players getting into action at the All-England Club. You can see the draw here, and I’m hoping that we will, this time, have a chance to see some of those matches on TV courts as the tournament goes on.