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Federer Picks up the Pace to Reach Wimbledon Third Round, Fritz Also Wins Again

Roger Federer celebrates after winning his second round match against Richard Gasquet at the Wimbledon Championships, 01 July 2021. EPA-EFE/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

By Ricky Dimon

It may be too early for Roger Federer to start thinking about Grand Slam title No. 21 at the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, but he at least took a step in the right direction on Thursday.

Coming off a lackluster first-round performance in which he dropped two sets to Adrian Mannarino, Federer enjoyed a much-improved day at the office and defeated Richard Gasquet 7-6(1), 6-1, 6-4. The 39-year-old needed just one hour and 51 minutes to punch his ticket to the last 32 at the All-England Club.

Federer fired 10 aces without double-faulting and he did not drop serve a single time while saving all five of Gasquet’s break chances. Improving as the match went on, the 20-time Grand Slam champion hit 32 winners and only 13 unforced errors over sets two and three combined. He finished with 50 winners and 26 errors.

“I’m really happy with my level,” Federer said during his on-court interview. “Today was special. I’m really happy with that.”

He was asked during his press conference if it was his best match of the year so far.

“I thought it was a good match,” the sixth seed assessed. “I was actually very happy with my (Dan) Evans match this year. The (Marin) Cilic match in Paris was good for me, too. I think this one is up there with the top three.

“I think it was a nice match back for me. (I) felt good physically–much more relaxed in many ways, as I was able to play a really good ‘breaker (and) then have a great [rest of the match]. I think it is really crucial for guys to be able to stretch the lead. What I was able to do today gives you a lot of confidence. You can start to play so much more freely…. I think I definitely had a really nice stretch there for sometimes after winning that ‘breaker.

It was a nice match for me, good atmosphere for me, good weather…. It was definitely one of the highlights of the year so far.”

A spectator wearing a Federer hat at the Wimbledon Championships, Wimbledon, Britain 01 July 2021. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL

One of the highlights of Wimbledon so far–along with Federer’s form and Andy Murray’s run to the third round–has been Taylor Fritz.

After being taken off the court at the French Open in a wheelchair and undergoing a procedure on his knee, it was assumed that Fritz would miss Wimbledon. Well, less than four weeks later he is not only playing at Wimbledon but also winning. The 23-year-old followed up a four-set win over Brandon Nakashima by beating another fellow American, Steve Johnson, in five on Thursday. Fritz held off Johnson 6-4, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-4 after three hours and 47 minutes.

Yes, the world No. 40 battled–successfully–for almost four hours on a knee that required surgery in June.

“I knew whatever I did at French Open was bad,” Fritz reflected. “Because I honestly didn’t want to get a wheelchair, but I couldn’t even stand. I tried to stand up; I couldn’t stand. I looked at my team and I said, ‘Guys, I could be done for a long time,’ because I have never had anything that felt like that. I heard it pop, you know. I heard it go.

Taylor Fritz in action against Joao Sousa of Portugal during their first round match at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 31 May 2021. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

“I was obviously really down, expecting something bad from the MRIs. They told me, hypothetically speaking, if it is what they think it is then a 4-6-week recovery is possible. That was the day that I did it at French Open.

“By the time I was actually able to get the surgery, it was exactly 20 days away from Wimbledon. So today is day 23, I guess, from surgery. Obviously it’s meant to be a 4-6-week thing. I’m positive this is the quickest anyone has ever returned to…like…actual professional competition from this surgery–definitely any sport that requires direction changes. Maybe someone has done it in golf. But this is definitely the fastest someone has come back from this.

“The surgeon told me before [he] went in, ‘We think you have to just snip the part that I tore off, just snip it out, and then we’re good, because the rest of the meniscus looks intact. You don’t need all of it. You just need most of it. But he kind of warned me, ‘Once I get in there, I’m going to check it. If it’s a little bit damaged, this one part looks like it could be damaged, then I’m going to have to do a repair.’

“First thing when I woke up…I was loopy from the anesthesia…and the first thing I said was, ‘Did he repair it or did he snip it?’ They said, ‘He snipped it.’ Immediately from then on I was just thinking, ‘Wimbledon. (Do) everything I can possibly do to be here.”

Well, he got here.

And, two matches later, he’s still here.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.