Thursday 18 January 2018

Federer primed for tilt at record-breaking title

Oliver Brown

It was indicative of Roger Federer's peerless status at Wimbledon that his parents, Robert and Lynette, took their seats not in the family section but the Royal Box.

Their boy responded to his billing as Centre Court curtain-raiser with a suitably magisterial dispatch of Romania's Victor Hanescu, losing a mere five games to announce his designs upon a record eighth singles title on these lawns.

Federer once described a straightforward filleting of Jurgen Melzer here as a "one shirt-change kind of match – pretty easy."

By that measurement, the defending champion's serene dismissal of Hanescu was a no-extra-linen, save-on-laundry affair as he detained himself all of 68 minutes en route to victory.

Such was his fluency, the poor sap from Bucharest on the other side of the net was reduced to a kind of human ball-machine, there to provide the set-up to the next astounding flourish.

Be in no doubt that the great Swiss is primed and ready to move beyond the seven Wimbledon crowns that only he and Pete Sampras have won in the Open era.

At 31, he might have accumulated 17 Grand Slams, 77 tour titles, £50m on the court and around triple that away from it, but the desire to extend his supremacy is insatiable.

"I always pack my bags for five sets anyway, every single time," Federer said, speaking before arch-nemesis Rafael Nadal made his own premature exit.

"In the first round we have seen the surprise losses happen too often. I was always going to give credit to Victor."

But few losses have ever been so surprising as that of Nadal, whom Federer was due to meet in the quarter-finals.

Instead, the draw has opened up tantalisingly and he showed every intention of seizing the stage once more with this latest emphatic demolition, breaking Hanescu early in each set and producing 32 clean winners. Federer has arrived at Wimbledon fresh from his sixth triumph at his regular warm-up event in Halle.

"I feel as if I am peaking at the right time, and I don't know how much better I could have played."

Elsewhere, Andy Murray secured a no-nonsense victory over Germany's Ben Becker. Murray became a little sloppy after a fine start but once he had the first set in the bag he did not look back, winning 6-4 6-3 6-2.

The 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt saw off Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets, the Australian claiming a superb 6-4 7-5 6-3 win. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Wimbledon

Live, BBC 2, 11.30/TG4, 1.0/BBC 1, 1.45

Irish Independent

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