Roger, Serena, Rafa bring best to Wimbledon’s Centre Court
AP Tennis Writer
LONDON — They roared for Roger Federer just for showing up, greeting his arrival at Wimbledon’s main stadium as if his mere presence were enough to justify the price of admission.
They clapped and yelled when Federer’s drop volley capped a 16-minute tour de force of a first set in which he won 21 of the first 23 points.
They eventually sent him back to the locker room with a standing ovation, acknowledging the talent displayed by Federer during a 6-0, 7-5, 6-4 victory over 22nd-seeded Adrian Mannarino of France in the fourth round Monday, yes, but also his superiority over the course of a career that has produced eight Wimbledon championships and 20 Grand Slam titles, both records for a man.
Federer, who has won 32 consecutive sets at the tournament and held serve 81 games in a row, was asked whether he paused for even a moment to wonder why he wasn’t being given more of a test.
“Not really,” said Federer, the No. 1 seed. “I’m telling myself, ‘Why didn’t I break the first game of the second?’”
His mastery was only the beginning of things for those who spent 120 pounds (about $160) to be at Center Court and were afforded the rare treat of watching three of the greatest to ever lift a tennis racket.
Federer was followed by Serena Williams, she of the seven Wimbledon trophies among her 23 majors, who was hardly challenged in a 6-2, 6-2 win against 120th-ranked qualifier Evgeniya Rodina of Russia. And Williams was followed by Rafael Nadal — two titles at Wimbledon, 17 at all Slams — who dispatched 93rd-ranked Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
The only other Wimbledon champion left in either bracket, Novak Djokovic, beat 40th-ranked Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 on No. 1 Court, then said he’d like to get as much time on Centre Court as Federer and Nadal do.
Was Mannarino intimidated by playing in that hallowed arena?
“The fact that it is the Centre Court, and the fact that it is a lot of people in the stands — it’s not changing anything, actually. The only different thing is that it’s Federer in front of me, and he’s a really good opponent. It makes the job harder,” Mannarino said. “This is what is not easy to handle.”
He showed up wearing a plain white T-shirt, bereft of any obvious sponsor’s logos, looking like someone out for a casual hitting session in a public park. At least it appeared to be the right size. What a difference from a week ago, when Federer’s debut of new duds after splitting from Nike drew so many headlines.
It took Mannarino so much toil and trouble to win one game, saving four break points to hold to begin the second set. He was able to tread water until 5-all, when Federer returned a 123 mph serve, quickly gained control of a baseline exchange, then hopped and screamed, “Come on!” as a backhand flew long for the break. Federer also broke, then held to end the match.
“I think,” Federer said when it was over, “I can be very pleased.”
The women’s quarterfinals are Tuesday, with Williams vs. Camila Giorgi, two-time major champion Angelique Kerber vs. No. 14 Daria Kasatkina, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko vs. Dominika Cibulkova, and No. 13 Julia Goerges vs. No. 20 Kiki Bertens.
On Wednesday, Federer will play No. 8 Kevin Anderson, a South African who was the 2017 U.S. Open runner-up and advanced with a 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2), 5-7, 7-6 (4) victory over Gael Monfils.
“I mean, I’m definitely going to have to look at it the right way. I think the right way of looking at it is: It’s an opportunity to test myself against a player of Roger’s caliber,” said Anderson, who is 0-4 against Federer. “These are the matches we work so hard for, me and my whole team.”
The other matchup on the top half of the draw is No. 9 John Isner against No. 13 Milos Raonic, who beat Federer in the 2016 semifinals before losing in the final.
On the bottom half of the bracket, it’ll be 12-time major champion Djokovic against 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori, and No. 2 seed Nadal against either 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro or Gilles Simon. Del Potro was leading Simon two sets to one when their match was suspended because of darkness Monday night.
Anderson, Isner and Nishikori all reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time.
For Nadal, this marks a return. He hadn’t been this far at the All England Club since 2011, losing to men ranked 100th or worse on four of his past five appearances.
“It’s true, it has been a while,” Nadal said. “But when I come here, I come here thinking that I can do a good result, no?”
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