Thursday, February 02, 2023

Federer advances; longest match in history still going

by Steven Wine
| June 24, 2010 9:00 PM

WIMBLEDON, England — Well-rehearsed in the role of gracious winner, Roger Federer patiently waited for his opponent to tuck his racket into a bag, and they walked off the court side by side and smiling at the crowd’s long, loud roar.

When they reached the exit, Ilija Bozoljac allowed Federer to go through the door first, bound for the third round at Wimbledon.

It has been a surprisingly arduous journey so far. After rallying from a two-set deficit in his opening match, Federer endured plenty of tense moments Wednesday before beating Bozoljac, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (5).

“As long as you’re moving on, especially at Wimbledon, I’m a happy man,” Federer said.

Still stymied in the first round were American John Isner and Nicolas Mahut of France, immersed in the longest match in history.

How long? It was suspended because of darkness — for the second day in a row. Tied at 59-all in the fifth set, they were to resume today.

“Nothing like this will ever happen again. Ever,” Isner said.

By comparison, Federer had only a light workout. But the six-time champion had trouble finishing off Bozoljac, an obscure but flashy Serb who won the crowd’s affection. A qualifier ranked 152nd, he hits an unorthodox two-handed forehand but also a booming serve that kept Federer on his heels.

“He played really well,” Federer said. “I served well at key moments and I’m very happy with the way I got through. It could have gone five, so I’m happy.”

Federer converted only three of 13 break-point chances. But he was never broken, won 75 percent of his service points and committed just 13 unforced errors.

Three-time Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick dug out of an early hole and beat Michael Llodra 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (2). Seeded fifth, Roddick began playing serve and volley more as the match progressed, and he won 34 points at the net.

“That was as tough of a second round as there is,” Roddick said. “I had to make an adjustment. Off of my serve, I had to start coming in and serving and volleying behind it.”

Playing on Centre Court for the first time since his loss to Federer in last year’s epic final, Roddick hit 25 aces, lost serve just once and committed only 11 unforced errors.

No. 3-seeded Novak Djokovic beat American Taylor Dent 7-6 (5), 6-1, 6-4. Dent served at up to 148 mph but lost 25 of 54 points at the net.

Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams lost only 11 points on her serve and beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-0, 6-4. Williams is seeded second behind her sister Serena, who won when they met in last year’s final.

Justine Henin was twice broken serving for the victory, then regrouped and beat Kristina Barrois 6-3, 7-5. Fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters defeated Karolina Sprem 6-3, 6-2.

Clijsters and Henin, both back at Wimbledon after coming out of retirement, could meet in the fourth round.

No. 15 Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, advanced when Evgeny Korolev retired trailing 6-4, 6-4, 3-0. American Mardy Fish had 30 aces but went 0-for-9 on break-point chances in the final set and lost to Florian Mayer 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

The only seeded man to lose was No. 7 Nikolay Davydenko, beaten by Daniel Brands 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8), 6-1. Two seeded women lost: No. 13 Shahar Peer, No. 30 Yaroslava Shvedova and No. 33 Melanie Oudin.

Peer was eliminated by Angelique Kerber 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Oudin, who made a big splash by reaching the fourth round last year at age 17, lost to Jarmila Groth 6-4, 6-3.

Federer was three points from defeat Monday against Alejandro Falla, and he found himself two points from being forced to a fifth set against Bozoljac. Then Federer swept the final three points of the match, one with a bold drop shot when trailing 5-4 in the tiebreaker.

The defending champion said he’s unfazed to be tested so severely by lesser players.

“People maybe got a little bit spoiled and thought the early rounds are not even a competition any more,” Federer said. “It just shows how deep the men’s game is at the moment. People think they’re all scared of me. I always think they actually play better matches against me because they have nothing to lose.”

While Federer’s match evolved into a serving contest, Roddick’s match became a battle over control of the net. After he started to charge aggressively, he broke for the first time at love in the final game of the second set to even the score, then won five consecutive games in the third set to take control against Llodra.

“He was playing flawless tennis,” Roddick said. “He played an almost perfect first set. It took some of my best stuff today to get through that. I thought I played really well. I think I had to.”

Tucked away on cozy Court 18, Isner and Mahut kept going long after play ended on Wimbledon’s bigger stages. The match remained undecided after 10 hours of action over two days, including 7 hours, 6 minutes Wednesday.

That was enough to break the full-match record of 6:33, set at the 2004 French Open.

Both players dominated with their serves. Isner had 98 aces and Mahut 95, both surpassing the previous record for the sport. After play resumed Wednesday at the start of the fifth set, there were no service breaks.

The drama drew an overflow crowd, and players watched the telecast in fascination.

“As we know, we have no draws in tennis, so there will be a loser,” Federer said. “But I guess in this match, both will be winners because this is just absolutely amazing.”

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