Roger Federer survives major Wimbledon scare, comes back to beat Julien Benneteau

Chris Chase
Busted Racquet

Roger Federer avoided another giant killing Friday at Wimbledon, coming back from two sets down to defeat No. 29 seed Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-1 to advance to the fourth round, keeping alive his bid for a seventh title and giving himself a chance to extend his record streak of 32 consecutive major quarterfinals.

The world No. 3 defeated Benneteau almost exactly 24 hours after his longtime rival, Rafael Nadal, was stunned by Lukas Rosol in one of the biggest upsets in the history of tennis.

It will go down as just another win for the all-time winningest Grand Slam champion, but he was as close to defeat as possible without facing a match point. Five times in the fourth set Benneteau was two points from victory. He didn't get to match point on any of those opportunities.

"I'm very fortunate," Federer said after the match.

[Watch: Roger Federer and Julien Benneteau go all out in crucial tiebreaker]

He was broken at 4-4 in the first set, then never recovered from a mini-break in a second-set tiebreaker. After Federer won third set in 27 minutes, it felt like he'd sail to a five-set victory, much like he did in coming back from an 0-2 deficit against Juan Martin Del Potro at the French Open.

Benneteau didn't waver. When he saved three break points at 0-40 at 3-5 in the fourth, a murmur ran through the pro-Federer crowd at Centre Court. Could it happen again? Federer hadn't lost before the quarterfinals at Wimbledon since 2002. He hadn't been ousted in the third round of a major since the French Open two years later. There hasn't been a Wimbledon final without either he or Nadal in a decade.

Federer was forced to serve to stay in the match twice and then held off Benneateu rallies in the fourth-set tiebreaker. By the time the fifth set started, it was all but over. The Frenchman had to call for a trainer for cramping at 1-2 and was never in a return game. Federer lost just four points on his serve in the final set in coming back from a two-set deficit for the eighth time in his career.

The win puts Federer and top-seeded Novak Djokovic on a collision course for a semifinal. They're the only top 16 seeds remaining in their half of the draw.

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