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Sunday 22 April 2018

Tennis: Federer enjoying path of least resistance

Alexandra Willis

While all eyes on Centre Court will be on Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, the remaining members of the big four will be going about their fourth-round business on Court No 1, Novak Djokovic against slight Frenchman Michael Llodra, Roger Federer against hot-headed Russian Mikhail Youzhny.

Neither player is likely to present the sort of challenge posed by Juan Martin del Potro when he takes on Nadal, and so it is expected that the second and third seeds will progress without unduly raising their heart rates.

Federer enters the second week of Wimbledon having spent at least two hours less on the match court than Nadal, Murray or Djokovic, and although Tomas Berdych is the man to have dropped the fewest games, with just 21, the six-time champion is yet to undergo any sort of serious scrutiny.

His demolition of David Nalbandian in three sets to reach the last 16 was startling, not necessarily because of the way he linked forehand and backhand, but because he did not allow Nalbandian even the risk of a chance. "I'm very happy if I keep playing this way," Federer said.

"So it's a matter of keeping it up and then adjusting to what's coming from the opponents. They all play very differently."

His next opponent is 18th seed Youzhny, an unknown quantity both on and off the court, who came from a set down to defeat Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.

But the fact that the Russian has lost all 10 encounters with the Swiss suggests that Federer will advance to a record 29th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final without too much bother.

Djokovic may have reminded the tennis world that he is still prone to an off day with his raging four-set victory over Marcos Baghdatis, so will need to wake up feeling sharper for his fourth-round match against Llodra.

The Frenchman is one of the few turf tacticians left in the draw, meaning that Djokovic could struggle if he can't trim down his unforced error count.

"He's one of the few serve-and-volley players nowadays," Djokovic said of Llodra. "I think the fact that he's a leftie gives him a little advantage because there are not many lefties around. He's a very aggressive player. He can be trouble."

The world No 2 leads their head-to-head 2-1, having most recently beaten Llodra in Dubai in February as part of his 43-match winning streak.

The other fourth-round men's matches include Jo-Wilfried Tsonga against seventh seed David Ferrer, American Mardy Fish against last year's finalist Berdych, and Feliciano Lopez taking on qualifier Lukasz Kubot. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


Live, BBC2 12.0/TG4 1.56

Irish Independent

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