- French Open
Another flawless Federer performance
Seriously, have we ever seen Roger Federer actually sweat? There are times when he is so nonchalant it looks like he just (yawn) crawled out of bed.
On Wednesday, this effect was strengthened by the sporty Nike shoes he wore for a second-round match against Somdev Devvarman. They are navy blue around the front of the foot with a lime-green swoosh. But toward the back of the shoe, the blue gives way to white, cut on a jaunty, diagonal angle.
From far away, it appears Federer is wearing a slipper.
Indeed, his 6-2 6-1 6-1 victory over Devvarman was so leisurely, so comfortable, that he might have actually worn backless slippers, along with a pipe and a smoking jacket. The match was over in a scant 82 minutes.
"I'm playing okay," Federer said when asked to assess his game. "I didn't back off and start to play too passively. I took it to my opponents."
Federer's consistency, quite frankly, remains astonishing.
Even at age 31 - he'll turn 32 in early August - he seems to win virtually every match he's supposed to. That isn't as easy as you might think; see Serena Williams' stunning first-round loss to Virginie Razzano here last year.
With the victory, Federer has now:
* Won all 49 of his second-round matches in grand slams.
* Beaten a qualifier in a major tournament 29 consecutive times. A loss to Mario Ancic at Wimbledon in 2002 marks the only time he ever has lost a grand slam match to a qualifier.
* Failed to lose to a player ranked outside the top-100 since 2005, when he fell to Richard Gasquet in Monte Carlo.
Federer is the men's all-time grand slam singles leader with 17 titles. Although only one of them came at Roland Garros, the win against Devvarman moved Federer alone into third place all-time, with 56 match victories. If he reaches the semi-finals - something that seems quite possible, given the draw - he will pass Guillermo Vilas and Nicola Pietrangeli (58) and set a record.
This was Federer's second match against a qualifier here, and it's fair to wonder whether the venerable champion is receiving an unfair advantage. The toughest player in his path to those semifinals is No. 6 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whom he has beaten in nine of 12 matches.
Federer looked close to flawless against Devvarman. His classic backhand down the line sealed the defeat after only one hour and 22 minutes. After they shook hands, Federer smiled and patted Devvarman on the back. He seemed genuinely grateful for the ovation from the crowd at Court Suzanne Lenglen, beaming broadly and raising his hand in acknowledgement.
These are the moments that Federer lives for, why he continues to play the game. Say, for the sake of argument, he plays through 2016, the year the Olympics will be staged in Rio de Janeiro. That would give him nearly four more years. Assuming he makes the quarter-finals of each - admittedly, a stretch - that would be only 75 or so more chances to bask in the applause of an adoring tennis public on the major stage.
In the scheme of things, that's a shrinking window. That's why Federer continues to compete so hard in these remaining majors. Of course, that's not quite the case the rest of the time.
Federer, it has been written frequently, has not won a tournament since Cincinnati last summer. Do you think he really cares about winning the title at Rotterdam? Apparently not, because he lost there earlier this year in the quarterfinals to Julien Benneteau. Or Dubai [lost to Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals]? Or Madrid [fell to Kei Nishikori in his second match]? Even the prospect of playing Rafael Nadal outside a major seems to hold little interest; Federer lost all four sets in their encounters in Rome and Indian Wells.
But throw him into a grand slam semi-final, like the Australian Open back in January, and Federer will battle Andy Murray over five fierce sets.
He's already dialed in for his third-round match because it comes against Julien Benneteau, the man who embarrassed him in the obscure venue of Rotterdam. On Court Philippe Chatrier, against a Frenchman, it will be an entirely different animal.
"I definitely think the next match will be a big test for me to see where I stand," Federer said. "I will only know more after the Benneteau match."