Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Roger Federer in the groove eases past Fognini into 3rd round at Wimbledon

Fair warning to the rest of the men's draw: Roger Federer wants his trophy back. Novak Djokovic, the reigning champion, and Rafael Nadal will no doubt have something to say about that, but if Federer maintains this sort of form, good luck to anyone who dares stand in his way.

Three years have passed since he won an epic final here against Andy Roddick and his crown has slipped a little after losing in the quarter-finals to Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the past two years.

Those defeats meant he was consigned to Court One on the opening Monday, but Federer was back on his beloved Centre Court on Wednesday and performed as if he had never been away.

Few men can make Federer bow on a court that has been a second home to him since the first of his six Wimbledon titles in 2003, but before dismantling the injury-cursed Italian Fabio Fognini in straight sets, he obliged for Prince Charles, who was watching from the Royal Box for the first time since 1970.

This was a display fit for a future king, Federer pipe-and-slippers comfortable throughout. Fognini's big day on Centre Court was over in a flash, Federer wrapping up a 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 victory in one hour and 14 minutes.

The numbers before the match did not give Foginini, the world No68, many reasons to be optimistic; while he was playing only his eighth match at Wimbledon, Federer was playing his 68th.

By the end of it, he had his 61st win and the only time he looked remotely flustered was when he fell awkwardly trying to reach a deep shot from Fognini in the second set. His wife, Mirka, briefly looked worried in the stands but she need not have worried. It takes more than that to knock Federer off his stride.

Doing so was far beyond the capabilities of Fognini anyway, although a murmur of disbelief spread around Centre Court when the Italian led 30-0 on Federer's serve in the first game of the match. Federer merely responded with a couple of aces, instantly quelling any thoughts of an unlikely upset, and then swiftly broke for a 2-0 lead when a Fognini forehand landed long.

That, you suspected, was that, and so it proved. Although Fognini battled gamely, occasionally producing some inspired shots, Federer was simply far too good. Piercing forehand after piercing forehand sent Fognini running from side to side and at times he was reduced to the role of admiring spectator, on one occasion standing aside in resignation as Federer polished off a point almost lazily.

Yet if Federer was bored by the lack of any real challenge, there was no danger of him losing focus and he wrapped up the first set in 24 minutes.

Federer broke immediately at the start of the second and Foginini cut a forlorn figure. When Fognini served and Federer contemptuously flicked a backhand return that dropped deliciously over the net, it was confirmation that while the pair were sharing a court, they were operating on different planets.

Federer's control was so complete that he did not even have to face a single break point and the contest ended with a whimper, Fognini double-faulting on match point, perhaps eager to bring his torture to an end.

Greater challenges await Federer, although his draw is kind. Until a likely semi-final against Djokovic, that is. That can wait, though. For now, simply revel in another afternoon watching a genius go about his work.


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