Tennis-Federer stays calm in Wimbledon storm
LONDON, June 29 |
LONDON, June 29 (Reuters) - In the wake of Rafa Nadal's collapse under the Centre Court lights, Roger Federer was 'Mr Calm' personified as he clawed his way back from the precipice to book his place in the Wimbledon fourth round.
The 16-times grand slam winner was on the cusp of an embarrassing third round exit when he went down by two sets and again when he stood two points from defeat, but he turned it round to beat France's Julien Benneteau 4-6 6-7 6-2 7-6 6-1.
It came just 24 hours after Rafa Nadal had faced similar adversity but crumbled against little-known Czech firecracker Lukas Rosol.
"I was actually calm, to be quite honest," Federer told reporters. "I was more panicky midway through the second set...
"I tried to stay calm, and I was. It was like he's still such a long a way from the finish line that there is no reason right now to go crazy about it.
"Let's see how the third starts and then we'll take it from there. Like I said, I have been there so many times that I also know how to handle the situation.
"But on grass I knew it was going to be a different animal, and I'm happy to weather the storm out there today."
With Federer firmly on the ropes, Benneteau said a split second 'Rosol moment' flashed through his mind before the mercurial Swiss sealed an epic victory.
The 30-year-old ranked his performance as one of the best of his career against an opponent he described as a rock.
"He's two sets down and he doesn't show anything. After that, if your level is a little bit lower, right here, right now he takes the opportunity," Benneteau, head in hands, told reporters after the match.
"He has a capacity also to improve his game during the match. He was more aggressive right after I serve the first shot of the rally, he tried to hit the ball stronger and to be more aggressive, and you feel it when you are on the opposite side."
Benneteau, without a singles title to his name, was ready to take the fifth set down to the wire in front of a gripped full-house on Centre Court but cramps proved to be his undoing.
"It was a magic moment, for sure. It's tough, but..." he said, his voice trailing off as he thought of what might have been. (Additional reporting by Neil Maidment, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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