Federer restores order after epic fightback
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - For all the titles and records Roger Federer owns it was his warrior heart that rescued him from the brink of defeat against Julien Benneteau and put the tennis world back on its axis following an incredible 24 hours at Wimbledon on Friday.
After great rival and 11-times grand slam champion Rafa Nadal was bludgeoned out of the tournament by unknown Czech Lukas Rosol the previous evening, Wimbledon king Federer was two points away from following him through the exit door.
French journeyman Benneteau, a 30-year-old without a singles title to his name compared to Federer's 74, played astonishing tennis to lead by two sets under the Centre Court roof before the Swiss maestro fought back to win 4-6 6-7 6-2 7-6 6-1.
"It was a tough match, it was brutal," said 16-times major winner Federer, who has not lost before the fourth round of his last 33 grand slam tournaments since the 2004 French Open.
"He was hurt in the fifth but I tried in the third, fourth and fifth sets to stay alive and come back."
Reigning champion Novak Djokovic, the other member of the "big three" who have won 28 of the last 29 grand slam titles, also flirted with danger against eccentric Czech Radek Stepanek before reaching the fourth round.
Outfoxed for an hour by the tricky Stepanek, Djokovic fought back impressively to win in some style 4-6 6-2 6-2 6-2.
Women's top seed Maria Sharapova reached the fourth round, beating Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei 6-1 6-4 to set up a last-16 clash with German 15th seed Sabine Lisicki, who she beat in last year's semi-final. Continued...