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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, July 1, 2021

 
Roger Federer

Roger Federer dismissed Richard Gasquet in straight sets becoming the oldest man to reach the Wimbledon third round since a 40-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1975.

Photo credit: Getty

An absurdly-angled forehand return from Roger Federer sent Richard Gasquet racing so far off the court, he nearly fell into the photo pit in pursuit.

A focused Federer turned pivotal points into photo finishes securing his spot in the Wimbledon third round for an Open Era record 18th time. 

More: Djokovic, Barty, Federer Lead Olympic List

The 39-year-old Federer flashed 49 winners dismissing Gasquet 7-6(1), 6-1, 6-4 to become the oldest man to advance to the Wimbledon third round since a 40-year-old Ken Rosewall did it in 1975.

The eight-time Wimbledon champion played one of his most dynamic matches of the season, setting up a third-round clash vs. British left-hander Cameron Norrie, who dropped just six games sweeping Alex Bolt.

"I think it was a nice match back for me. Felt good physically," Federer said. "Much more relaxed in many ways, as I was able to play a really good breaker, then have a great sort of 32 minutes to whatever the end was, almost an hour, hour and 15. I think it is really crucial for guys to be able to stretch the lead. What I was able to do today gives you a lot of confidence. You can start to play so much more freely.

"I was able to do that with my shots. Then the shot-making comes into it, then the variation comes into it, also move correctly, you're much more clear in your head. I think I definitely had a really nice stretch there for sometimes after winning that breaker, also even during the breaker taking good decisions."




While Federer's first-round win came on a retirement that raised questions about his form, today the 20-time Grand Slam champion had all the answers against an opponent he's overwhelmed.

"It's not the most important to feel your absolute best in the first or second round; what you don't want to do is go out because then you've really got a look at everything and question yourself," Federer said in his on-court interview. "I'm not there. I'm in the third round. I'm really happy with my level today was special so I'm really happy with that.

"It's been a difficult year and a half in many ways for me with the double knee surgery and rehab. The initial goal was to come back last year.  I was never gonna make that. This year was nice. I made it. I tried everything I could these last few  months and weeks, tried to get as much information as possible, to compress it all today on this court and hoping something decent comes out of it and I thought I did today so it's great."

Playing just his 10th match in the past 19 months, Federer moved fluidly, saved all five break points he faced and hit his forehand with more conviction and precision than he showed in his opening-round win over Adrian Mannarino, who retired after crashing to the court and injuring his right knee in the fourth set. After his first-round win, Federer conceded "I definitely got lucky."

Today, Federer found a remedy for shot ailments against an opponent he's dominated, driving 29 more winners than Gasquet.  

Maintaining his mastery in this one-sided rivalry, Federer beat Gasquet for the 19th time in 21 meetings, including winning 25 consecutive sets against the man who won their very first meeting at the 2005 Monte Carlo. Federer raised his Wimbledon record to 103-14, while giving devoted fans hope he will fulfill his goal of a second-week run.

The 56th-ranked Frenchman's biggest mistake came on his most brilliant strike.

Two games into the second set, Gasquet chased down a Federer smash several feet behind the baseline when he whipped his wondrous one-handed backhand down the line earning an eruption of cheers from fans and raising his arms to celebrate a 40-love lead.




That sensational shot inspired stinging rebuke from Federer. The Swiss responded, thumping his shots with even more vigor reeling off nine straight points to ignite a tear that saw him surge to a 5-0 second-set lead.

"I know Richard really well—we've played so many times against each other it's always a pleasure playing against him," Federer said. "He's got the most wonderful backhand and after he ripped that down the line I thought maybe if I can do something just even similar I would be happy.

"I got on a roll after that so I'm happy he inspired me on that shot. It was a wonderful match for me. I was really happy with my performance today. Tough first set was tough, then after that I had a great second set. I was just a little bit better in the third so I'm very very happy of course."

The pair's first Wimbledon encounter in 14 years began with both men dodging break points in their opening service games.

In the 11th game, Gasquet's beguiling touch off a backhand drop shot left the Swiss slipping and sliding behind the baseline. The Frenchman fired his flashy one-handed backhand down the line to help hold for 6-5.

Federer flicked a stretch forehand pass to open the tiebreaker with the mini break. The Swiss swept his third ace for a 3-0 lead. Showing no sign of the forehand struggles he suffered in his opener vs. Adrian Mannarino, Federer danced around a backhand and drilled a diagonal forehand for a 5-1 lead. Gasquet spit up his second double fault to end a quality 49-minute opening set.

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Landing his first serve with varied spin and location helped Federer save a break point to start the second set with a hold.

Showing his shot-making skill, Gasquet ripped a wondrous one-handed backhand winner down the line from five feet behind the baseline as he went up 40-love in the second game. Gasquet's most superb strike of the match elicited a huge roar from the crowd, but Federer muted the uprising flying through 12 straight points elevating to a level his disconsolate opponent could not match.

Reading a Gasquet second serve, Federer was inside the baseline when he cracked a clean backhand return winner down the line breaking again 66 minutes into the match. Fedeer zipped an ace down the middle, sealing a love hold for 5-0 before Gasquet finally got on the board.

Tennis Express

Federer finished the set with a flourish, sifting a drop shot winner from behind the baseline then snapping his sixth ace for a two-set lead after 75 minutes.



Swinging freely, Federer continued to push the Frenchman into obscure areas of the lawn. When Gasquet shoveled a drop shot into net, Federer had the break and a 4-3 third-set lead.

Federer fired his ninth ace down the middle to close in one hour, 51 minutes. Next up for Federer is Norrie in their first Tour-level meeting.

"I feel like everything in his game has gotten a little bit better, if it's just the serve or the zip on the forehand, and the backhand has always been really clean," Federer said. "I think the confidence is growing."


 

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