Roger Federer showed that you need more in your arsenal than a bullet serve if you want to seriously trouble the grasscourt masters these days as he snuffed out the threat of Sam Groth in four sets at Wimbledon on Saturday.
Federer’s Australian opponent holds the record for the fastest ever delivery in tennis and regularly launched 140mph missiles but only briefly threatened the Swiss’s serene progress to the fourth round and eventually succumbed 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2.
Groth briefly slowed Federer’s bid for a record eighth Wimbledon title by holding serve throughout the third set and forcing a tiebreak that he clinched when the second seed misjudged a forehand at set point.
Yet Federer was in no mood to let his stranglehold slip and broke for a 2-0 lead in the fourth and then again to close out the match. The imposing figure of Groth rekindles memories of the dominant figures at Wimbledon in the 1990s when a sledgehammer serve could propel you into the latter stages at the All England Club.
Nowadays, however, the pinnacle of the men’s game is populated with more refined talents and none more so than Federer, whose bid for an 18th Grand Slam title looks compelling on the evidence of Wimbledon’s opening week.
He scythed through the first two sets against Groth breaking once in both and even out-aced the Australian 6-3 in the second.
Groth, whose fastest delivery of 147 mph fell just short of Taylor Dent’s 2010 Wimbledon record of 148, held his nerve throughout the third, but his inability to lay a glove on the Federer serve proved his ultimate downfall in the match.
He could not engineer a single break point throughout the two hour 16 minute contest and was put to the sword when Federer fired a rasping return on match point that dipped into Groth’s shoelaces as he charged to the net.
“I am very happy. It has been a hot week the first week but thankfully I have had easy matches going through without too many long four or five setters,” said Federer, who now faces 20th-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
“Now we are looking ahead and there are only big matches.”
Dustin checks out
Wimbledon lost one of its biggest crowd pleasers on Saturday when dreadlocked German Dustin Brown, who toppled twice champion Rafa Nadal, lost to Serb Victor Troicki before a court filled with fans willing him to victory.
Shouts of “Way to go Dustin, we’re here for you” and “Come on Dustin, come on” rippled from the stands. It was a rare lone voice that yelled “Go, Troicki, bravo” despite the Serb’s clear dominance in a third-round match he won 6-4, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-3.
Brown’s commanding victory over Nadal on Thursday stunned Wimbledon and had some fans thinking a new era might be dawning for Brown, ranked No. 102, whose father was Jamaican and mother is German, and who uses the Twitter hashtag @DreddyTennis.
“I was a little disappointed to see him lose, despite the crowd being behind him,” said Phil Lawford, a banker from Melbourne, Australia who, like Brown is aged 30.
“I think he’s got a future ahead of him.”
The lanky, 6-foot 5-inch German’s unorthodox style includes a serve and volley approach that sees him playing close to the net and lobbing soft drop shots to his opponent. Every time he did it he sent a ripple of delight through the crowd.
But in the end Brown admitted Troicki, the 22nd seed, had simply outplayed him, despite the fans egging him on.
“He played great. With his game, the way he was serving, especially in the tiebreak, I mean, I can do what I want, this guy had four aces and one service winner in the tiebreak, I’m most likely not going to win the tiebreak,” Brown said in a post-match press conference.
Forgotten Serb knocks out the champ
Holder Petra Kvitova suffered a shock 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 defeat by Serbia’s former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic who produced an inspired display in the Wimbledon third round on Saturday. Second seed Kvitova breezed through her first two matches but after taking the first set against 30-year-old Jankovic, the Czech made too many errors allowing the 28th seed to triumph. “I am overwhelmed and so excited,” said Jankovic, who has never been past the fourth round at the All England Club and admits that grass is not her favourite surface.
“I have played so poorly the last couple of years and playing on Centre Court against the defending champion was unbelievable. The crowd was really great. My opponent was in great form, no doubt about it, I just tried to stay in there, stay positive and fight and I made it. I have to keep going.”
Twice champion Kvitova looked confident at the start, having dropped only three games in her first two matches, and when she broke Jankovic in the fourth game she looked set to progress.
The 25-year-old broke again in the third game of the second set on a sun-drenched Centre Court and went 4-2 ahead as Jankovic struggled to match her power around the court. But the experienced Serb had battled through two three-set matches already at the tournament and knew how to dig deep as she fought back to 4-4 before forcing a decider.
The final set went with serve until Jankovic, who had begun to find the shots that saw her reach the US Open final and top the rankings in 2008, broke Kvitova to close out the match. “I am glad I was able to win against a two-time Wimbledon champion,” added Jankovic. “I could not believe it. Beating Petra gives me a lot of confidence.”
In the last 16 Jankovic faces Poland’s 13th seed Agnieszka Radwanska who beat Casey Dellacqua of Australia 6-1, 6-4. Also in the women’s draw, fifth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki advanced to the fourth round by beating Camila Giorgi of Italy 6-2, 6-2 and No. 20 Garbine Muguruza of Spain defeated 2012 semifinalist Angelique Kerber 7-6 (12), 1-6, 6-2. Wozniacki will face Muguruza on Monday. Other winners include No. 13 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 15 Timea Bacsinszky, No. 21 Madison Keys, Olga Govortsova and Monica Niculescu.