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Monday, June 29, 2009

Federer drops set on way to victory

Photo Titled federer selects
Roger Federer chooses two Slazenger balls to take to the baseline to serve with.
Opting to disregard one of the golden rules of sport kept Roger Federer on Centre Court for rather longer than he would have liked today.

At two sets and a break up on Philipp Kohlschreiber, the Swiss slipped into experimental mood rather than applying the killer touch and paid for it when he dropped his first set of the tournament before bouncing back to win 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1. The fact that he laboured for two hours and 31 minutes before sealing a place in the fourth round when he could have been off court in half that time will not be lost on Wimbledon's five-time champion.

There was, it should be stressed, never the slightest danger of Federer going down to a shock defeat but this was not the first time in the opening week that, faced with lesser opposition, he has experimented with tactics in the knowledge that he would not suffer unduly.

The fact that Kohlschreiber, a German Davis Cup player, opts, like Federer, to live in Switzerland might have had something to do with it, but to permit a player with a ranking of 32 back into a match was rather unwise. The German seized his chance with a vigour that turned Federer's serene afternoon into a grumpy one and he suffered the indignity of losing a tiebreak - the first set he has lost to this opponent in three meetings - before he regrouped and belatedly applied the killer thrust.

Kohlschreiber was clinging on like someone stranded in a typhoon

At the start, under skies that were grey but dry and a roof that remained fully open, Federer had imprinted his brilliance on the occasion, breaking twice to go 4-0 ahead in a quarter of an hour. Even at that early stage, the ease of his task persuaded him to sheath the dagger and he was punished as Kohlschreiber, hurtling around energetically, won the next two games.

Thus alerted, Federer closed out an opening set, containing six aces, in 37 minutes and, after breaking at the start of the second set, accelerated away in that familiar fashion. Kohlschreiber was clinging on like someone stranded in a typhoon, salvaging two set points on his own serve before Federer imperiously went two sets in front with successive aces.

What followed would not have been part of the game plan of former greats such as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Having broken once again at the start of the third set, Federer started to experiment, perhaps in anticipation of what he might face deeper into the tournament. There was even one weird effort, delivered from a squatting position, that just failed to clear the tape.

Kohlschreiber, who had already shown he was capable of striking some whizzbang winners, took encouragement as he hauled himself back into the match. First he subjected Federer to a six-deuce game to hold serve and then embarked on an inspired run of three straight games to lead 5-4 in the set.

Federer immediately upped his input but, distracted by what he clearly thought was poor line-calling, he went on to lose the tiebreak and promptly left court for a toilet break to regroup.

This move, allied to a change of shirt, helped to do the trick and he hurtled through the fourth set in 29 minutes. Clearly, the lesson had been learned.

Centre Court - Gentlemen's Singles - 3rd Round
Philipp Kohlschreiber GER (27)32771
Roger Federer SUI (2)Winner66656

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