Roger Federer has reached Round 4 at Roland Garros. He had to defeat Julien Benneteau in the process. You might remember Benneteau from a low point in Roger’s year so far with a QF defeat to the Frenchman in straight sets in Rotterdam. Perhaps that loss was on Roger’s mind because he got broken right away in the very first service game and before you could blink, Julien was up 2-0. That seemed to do the trick and wake up Roger for he launched a full on counter-attack. He promptly held serve, broke back and held serve again to go up 3-2. Leading at 4-3 Federer broke Benneteau at love to go up 5-3 and wasted no time serving out another love game to take the first set 6-3 in only 28 minutes. He won 33 points out of which he hit 10 winners; 70% of his first serves were in and he won a staggering 81% of those points.
Onto the second set and by then the Maestro was all warmed up and had a couple of love service games this set. Only in his second service game did he offer a break point to Julien but he quickly snuffed it out. For his part Benneteau played quite well until he was serving to go up to 5 all. And then, just like in the first set, Julien got broken at love. To be fair it wasn’t entirely his fault because there were two outright forehand winners from Roger that Julien could do nothing about. The Swiss kept his cool and served out the set to win it 6-4, in 31 minutes.
The third set kept up the high level of tennis that was on display in the first two sets. Both men played very well in their service games with game number 3-6 being 4 consecutive love hold service games; 2 apiece for each player. Neither player offered any break points and when Roger held to make it to 5 all, it looked as if the set was destined to head towards a tie-break. Yet again, all of a sudden in a repeat of the first 2 sets, Roger stepped up a gear at just the right moment. A forehand cross-court winner by Roger plus two errors from Julien and then a fabulous backhand down the line, FedEx style, sealed yet another love break for the Maestro. He served it out with his 4th love hold service game of the set with a 7-5 score line in 32 minutes.Except for that mini blip at the very beginning Roger played very well. And more importantly, he played well in a match against a much more formidable opponent than his previous rounds. He needed a match like this one to get him ready for going deeper in the tournament. Though his first two wins were impressive the fact that this match was also a straight sets victory was fantastic. It was great that he had a chance to exorcize the ghost of the Rotterdam match so comprehensively. And even though Benneteau was hampered with an injury he was still able to change tactics and keep toe to toe with Roger. I think for Roger this was not the Julien he was used to and the Maestro did well to adjust to Benneteau 2.0 plus the windy weather conditions.
Federer’s approach today gave me confidence, he was aggressive but not without purpose. The biggest element that stood out for me was that he had a specific plan in mind and executed it with Swiss precision. It almost seemed as if he broke Benneteau at will because they were so perfectly timed, JUST when he needed it. He knew exactly when to press on the accelerator and when to ease off. I’ve also noticed that he’s been hitting off both wings, yes, even that ‘weak’ backhand, very cleanly, with a ton of beauties down the line. He has also served very well so far and today he actually had an astounding 10 love service hold games in the match.
His next opponent is another Frenchman, Gilles Simon. Their H2H is 3-2, although Simon’s 2 match wins came way back in 2008 on hard court tournaments. Since then, Roger has won their next three matches including the most recent one at Rome only 2 weeks ago. Quiet optimism is my mantra for this French Open and I leave it at that. In the meantime, before closing this out, some more Fedtastic records for the Maestro – He has now reached R4 of the French Open a record 11 times; This R3 win was his 57th French Open match win, his 899th win (out of 1,103 matches) in his career and his 255th Grand Slam match win as well. I leave you to ponder on that greatness as I sign off for the night. Bonne nuit!