Federer faces old adversary in quarterfinal round
By Steven Wine
WIMBLEDON, England ó The last player to beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon has a law degree, wrote a thesis about the menís tour and cracked the top 10 two years ago at age 22.
Among his achievements, however, Mario Ancic is best known for his upset victory over Federer in 2002.
iSince then he hasnít lost on grass,î Ancic said.
They meet again in the quarterfinals today, with the top-ranked Federer three wins from a sixth consecutive Wimbledon title. Since the loss to Ancic in the first round six years ago, Federer has won 63 consecutive grass-court matches, including 38 at the All England Club.
iI can sit here and talk stories about the great win and how I beat Roger Federer,î Ancic said. iBut actually it wasnít Roger Federer as we know him today.î
Federer and his nemesis, second-ranked Rafael Nadal, were the only top-10 menís players to reach this yearís quarterfinals, keeping them on course to meet in the final for the third year in a row.
Nadal said he feared being forced to quit after he stumbled and hurt his right leg Monday in the second game of a victory over Mikhail Youzhny. After being treated and taped by a trainer, Nadal went on to an easy win.
iI really thought at that moment that I injured myself,î Nadal said in a blog post Tuesday. iI even thought about the ligament, since I heard a crack. I was very scared, believe me.î
Nadalís quarterfinal opponent will be 12th-seeded Andy Murray, who is trying to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. The winner of that match will advance to the semifinals against the winner of the match with the improbable pairing of No. 94-ranked Rainer Schuettler and No. 145-ranked Arnaud Clement.
The 32-year-old Schuettler is playing in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in five years, and Clement last reached the final eight at a major event in 2001.
Two-time major champion Marat Safin will play in his first Grand Slam quarterfinal since winning the Australian Open in 2005. His opponent will be No. 31-seeded Feliciano Lopez, with the winner to face the Federer-Ancic winner.
All eight Wimbledon quarterfinalists are from Europe, the first time that has occurred at a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era.
Ancic is mounting a comeback after being sidelined more than six months by glandular fever, a stomach illness and a right shoulder injury. He dropped to No. 136, his lowest ranking in more than five years, but since late January he has climbed back to 43rd.
During the enforced layoff, the Croatian became a full-time student and completed his studies at the University of Split law school.
iIt just helped me to stay mentally strong,î Ancic said. iIt would be much tougher if I didnít have it, so I would sit the whole day at home and hit my head through the wall all day ó you know, nothing to do. Watch tennis, and you get even more crazy.
iThis was really something that, ëOK, now I donít have tennis, but I have something else equally maybe as important in my life.í î
Now his focus is again on tennis ó and the worldís top-ranked player.
Federerís last loss at the All England Club came the year after his upset win at Wimbledon against seven-time champion Pete Sampras. Federer had yet to win a major championship but was No. 7-seeded and touted as a title contender, while Ancic was an 18-year-old qualifier ranked 154th and playing his first Grand Slam match.
iWhat a shocker that one was,î Federer said. iI was just really disappointed when I lost to him.î
Federer said the match cured his habit of taking some opponents lightly.
iWhen guys maybe didnít have the proper technique or were new on tour, I would sometimes not give them the respect maybe they deserved,î he said.
That no longer happens, which is one reason Federer has won 12 major championships. This week he can become the first man to win six successive Wimbledon titles since William Renshaw in 1881-86.
Federer beat Ancic a month ago in the third round at the French Open. Since losing to Ancic in their first meeting, Federer is 5-0 against the Croatian, sweeping all 14 sets.