Roger Federer stayed calm and relied on his experience as a six-time champion while escaping from a two-set deficit to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon.
Federer, the third seed from Switzerland, defeated Julien Benneteau of France 4-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 on a covered Centre Court of the All England Club in London.
It was the second time this month that Federer came back from two sets down, having overcome 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina in the quarterfinals of the French Open. Federer also did it in the first round of Wimbledon in 2010 against Colombia’s Alejandro Falla.
“Having been there so often, down two sets to love, knowing how to handle the situation, not to panic,” Federer said in a news conference. “That I guess comes with experience, but also experience alone is not going to win you the match. I had to push deep and extremely hard.”
Top seeds Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic also won third-round matches yesterday, as did four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters.
Sixth-seeded Serena Williams of the U.S. faces No. 25 Zheng Jie of China in a third-round match today, and two American men play higher-ranked opponents. Andy Roddick, seeded 30th, plays No. 7 David Ferrer of Spain and unseeded Sam Querrey faces Marin Cilic, the 16th seed from Croatia.
Also today, fourth-seeded Andy Murray of Britain plays Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus.
Federer extended his five-set record to 20-16 with yesterday’s win, and has now come back from two sets down eight times.
“He’s two sets down, and he doesn’t show anything,” Benneteau said in a news conference. “He was serving very well at the end of the fourth set, first serve after first serve.”
It looked as if Federer, winner of a men’s record 16 Grand Slam singles titles, was going to join second-seeded Rafael Nadal as early round losers. The Spanish left-hander was eliminated a day earlier by 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic in the second round.
Federer, who had conceded only nine games in the previous two rounds for his best start at Wimbledon since 2004, struggled against Benneteau during the first two hours. The 30-year-old from France, who missed one month of the clay-court season because of injury, struck 27 winners in the first two sets, 10 more than Federer.
Benneteau saved three set points at 6-5 down in the second set, the first one with a forehand, the second with an ace and the third with a drop shot. Benneteau raced to 6-2 in the tiebreak, and took a two-set lead as Federer dumped a backhand into the net, his 19th error.
“Julien played so well,” Federer said. “He was making me doubt most of the match.”
After a bathroom break, Federer won the next two sets as he regained the initiative, hitting 30 winners, 11 more than his opponent, and reducing his error count to eight.
The clock struck 9 p.m. local time as the fifth set began.
With Vogue editor Anna Wintour watching from Federer’s box, Benneteau got the trainer on court for treatment on his right thigh after the third game. Federer made Benneteau scramble around the court in the next game, forcing him into mistakes and breaking serve with a forehand return winner. Up 5-1, Federer won the match as Benneteau dumped a backhand into the net.
Benneteau said he had leg cramps in the fifth set, which made it difficult to serve.
“I tried to stay calm, and I was,” Federer said. “It was like, he’s still such a long a way from the finish line that there is no reason right now to go crazy about it.”