• Wimbledon, Day Three

Why Federer needs to be tested before the semis

Jo Carter June 27, 2012
Roger Federer was not tested against Fabio Fognini © PA Photos

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Imperious. Magnificent. Superb. Call it what you will, Roger Federer has glided into the third round.

As Prince Charles looked on from the Royal Box, Federer produced a majestic performance to see off Fabio Fognini in straight sets. While the 6-1 6-3 6-2 scoreline is not quite so impressive as his triple baguette win over Albert Ramos on Monday, there was no doubting the performance.

For the loss of just nine games in total, Federer has expended minimal energy and spent just less than two and a half hours on court - not bad when you consider Nadal needed two-and-a-quarter hours to see off Thomaz Bellucci on Tuesday.

A six-time champion at the All England Club, Federer's grass-court pedigree is indisputable. He may have lost a little of his aura in recent years, but he was simply too classy for the likes of Ramos and Fognini.

While conserving energy at this stage of the tournament is key, so is playing your way into form. If Federer had played Nadal on Tuesday, the Swiss would have won comfortably. But the problem is while Federer plays his best tennis in the first week, Nadal will just keep getting better.

He talks a good game. Speaking after his victory over Fognini, Federer as good as said the Italian had no chance of beating him, so long as he played, in his words, a "clean match".

"You're not going to get many chances throughout a set maybe against me when I'm serving well like that and able to vary with my serve," Federer said.

While he can keep things clinical, Federer remains a serious threat. The real question remains, will he still be able to clean up when his matches become more of a grind?

As long as things are easy, Federer will remain calm and unflustered. But as his quarter-final defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last year (where he lost after winning the opening two sets) showed, Federer is no longer as mentally impervious as he once was.

His performances thus far will be cause for concern for his rivals, but the truth is Federer is yet to be tested.

With Julien Benneteau next up for the Swiss, the veteran Frenchman will present Federer with a greater challenge. Benneteau, who memorably beat Federer at the 2009 Paris Masters, will be a litmus test of just where Federer is, not just physically but mentally.

If Federer is to win a seventh Wimbledon title, the chances are he will have to beat Novak Djokovic and Nadal en route. To go from sailing past his early opponents to facing the world No. 1 is not ideal preparation. Looking at Federer's quarter there does not appear to be a stand-out name that could really ask questions of the Swiss in his current vein of form.

Conserving energy is one thing, but with Djokovic and Nadal on the horizon, a tough four or five-set match could be just what Federer needs.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk