Federer as confident as ever on grass
By Howard Fendrich
WIMBLEDON, England ó Lest anyone forget that Roger Federer has, indeed, lost at Wimbledon, the BBC filled time during a rain delay Wednesday by rolling tape of his 2002 first-round exit against Mario Ancic.
That, of course, was the last time Federer stepped on a court at the All England Club ó or anywhere on grass, for that matter ó and walked away without winning.
Once Wednesdayís weather cleared up, Federer faced off against Ancic on Centre Court once more, only this time they were playing in the 2008 quarterfinals, and it was no contest whatsoever. The top-ranked Federer dismissed Ancic 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 to extend all manner of streaks: 39 consecutive wins at Wimbledon, 64 consecutive wins on grass, and 17 consecutive semifinal appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.
There were other numbers at which to marvel, not the least of which was this: Federer won 61 of 71 points on his serve.
Asked afterward if he could pick one match over his career that stands out from the rest in terms of quality, Federer replied, iThankfully, I get those moments quite often, actually.î
If anyone wondered whether the thumping he took from Rafael Nadal in last monthís French Open final might have a lasting effect on Federer, it sure doesnít sound as though thereís anything wrong with his confidence ó particularly here.
iIíll have a chance to win this tournament for the next five or 10 years,î said Federer, whose semifinal opponent Friday is the resurgent Marat Safin, a former No. 1 player who owns two Grand Slam titles. iMy gameís made for grass. There will always be tough opponents, dangerous opponents. That has been the case for the last years, as well.
iBut I found a way to win always. Of course, my dream is to not only win this year, but many more years to come.î
He is trying to become the first man since 1886 to win Wimbledon six years in a row. Pete Sampras never did it. Neither did Bjorn Borg. The only man who did? Willie Renshaw, and he only needed to win one match in each of his five title defenses, because back then the reigning champion got a bye into the final.
Federer is forced to navigate a tougher path, and the expectation this year has been that he will face his nemesis Nadal in a third straight Wimbledon championship match. The second-ranked Nadal moved closer to that by overwhelming 12th-seeded Andy Murray of Britain 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 for his 22nd consecutive victory overall.
Just like Federer did against Ancic, Nadal avoided facing a single break point against Murray, who was in his first major quarterfinal.
iI feel like the return is normally a strong part of my game. I had no chance at all really on his serve, which was a shame,î Murray said. iHeís improved his game a lot on the grass in the last couple of years. Definitely, heís the second-best grass-court player behind Federer. Heís definitely closer to him this year than he was.î
Nadal agreed with that assessment.
Heís trying to make a little history of his own: No man has won the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Borg in 1980.
iI am doing a lot of things better than last year,î Nadal said. iSlice better. The position on court, in my opinion, I felt like this is better. Playing more aggressive with the forehand all the time, and the backhand is feeling well, too.î
The four-time French Open champion knows heíll be facing an unseeded player next, but he doesnít know which one. The quarterfinal between 94th-ranked Rainer Schuettler and 145th-ranked Arnaud Clement was suspended because of darkness at one set apiece.