Eight-time former champion Roger Federer moved up through the gears on Thursday as he became the oldest player in 46 years to reach the third round of The Championships.
The sixth-seeded Swiss recorded his 19th victory in 21 matches against Richard Gasquet of France 7-6(1), 6-1, 6-4 on Centre Court over one hour and 51 minutes.
“I know Richard really well,” said Federer. “We’ve played so many times against each other. It’s always a pleasure playing against him. He’s got the most wonderful backhand… It was a wonderful match for me. I was really happy with my performance today. A tough first set and a great second set. I was just a little bit better in the third. I’m very, very happy, of course.
“It’s not the most important to feel your absolute best in the first and second rounds. What you don’t want to do is go out. Because then you’ve got to really look at everything and question yourself. I’m not there. I’m in the third round, I’m really happy with my level right now. Today was special, so I’m very happy with that.”
Federer, the oldest player to reach the Wimbledon third round since Australia’s Ken Rosswell, aged 40, in 1975, extended his sets-winning streak to 27 in a row against Gasquet, who last beat the Swiss in 2011.
The 39-year-old Federer, who is building his grass-court form after losing in the NOVENTI OPEN second round to Felix Auger-Aliassime two weeks ago, will next face British 29th seed Cameron Norrie for the first time at tour level on Saturday.
“I hope the crowd’s going to get into it, regardless of who they cheer for,” said Federer. “I understand if it’s for him, but if it’s for me, it’s because of the past 20 years of big matches I’ve played here. Cam’s a good guy, too. He’s had a wonderful year. Played great at Queen’s and he’s backing it up here. I know it’s going to be a tough match and I’m happy for him it’s going well. But enough now, he needs to go out!”
Federer has a 103-13 match record at the All England Club and is attempting to break a tie with Rafael Nadal for a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam championship crown.
In a nervous start for both players on Centre Court, it wasn’t until the tie-break that Federer, who struck 18 winners in the first set, got into full flow. Gasquet, who had performed well, hit his second double fault to conclude the 49-minute set.
Gasquet struck a 112mph backhand winner down the line off a Federer smash to go up 40/0 in the second game of the second set. But that triggered an immediate response and Federer got to a 5-0 advantage, and later hit a sixth ace to clinch the set.
Federer continued to threaten Gasquet’s serve in the third set, finally breaking through after the Frenchman mis-timed a backhand drop shot at 3-3. Gasquet saved a match point at 3-5, 30/40 with a fine forehand approach and easy put-away. But minutes later Federer struck his 50th winner – an ace – to complete his victory.