Roger Federer shows flashes of old brilliance in straight-sets win to set up match against Cameron Norrie

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·21 min read
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Roger Federer was in fine form as he dumped Richard Gasquet out of the tournament - REUTERS
Roger Federer was in fine form as he dumped Richard Gasquet out of the tournament - REUTERS
  • After stuttering first set eight-time Wimbledon champion finds form of old to brush Richard Gasquet aside in under two hours

  • Federer will now face British No.2 Cameron Norrie in the third round on Saturday

  • ​Wimbledon 2021 order of play for day five

No-one had expected to hear understated British No.2 Cameron Norrie lay down the gauntlet to Wimbledon legend Roger Federer on Thursday afternoon. But then, that’s what a microphone and 7,500 patriotic fans can do to you.

Speaking to Rishi Persad in his on-court interview after romping past Alex Bolt in just 95 minutes, Norrie talked up his chances in what will be a much-anticipated third-round match. “If it’s a time to play Roger, now’s probably the best time, I guess,” said Norrie of the 39-year-old former champion. “He’s still a decent player though. He can still play!’

Is Federer fading? You might have thought so if you had tuned in for the first half-hour of his meeting with old foe Richard Gasquet on Thursday evening. He began in the same faltering form we saw in his previous outing against Adrian Mannarino on Tuesday, which had been looking ominous until Mannarino slipped and sprained his knee while leading by two sets to one.

And then? As Federer moved towards a first-set tie-break against Gasquet, the gramophone needle entered the groove. Instead of the squeaks and squawks of an untuned instrument – which is what we had witnessed throughout the first nine games – a beautiful melody began to play.

Suddenly Federer was committing whole-heartedly to his strokes, which skimmed low over the net while still finding an unerring depth and accuracy. He was moving with growing certainty – apart from a couple of inelegant stumbles on a court that remains dangerously slick – and constructing points as efficiently as a Lego maniac with a new kit.

Federer went up the gears during his impressive win over Richard Gasquet  - SHUTTERSTOCK
Federer went up the gears during his impressive win over Richard Gasquet - SHUTTERSTOCK

The previous match had been a real trial of Federer’s patience, such is Mannarino’s awkward left-handed style. But Gasquet – for all the unrivalled elegance of his backhand – is the sort of opponent you want to face in the early rounds when you are struggling for form and timing. He has now played 14 matches against members of the Big Three at the majors, and he has yet to win a set.

The main takeaway from Federer’s 7-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory was that looked comfortable and fluent for the first time since he returned from his latest lay-off in March. He didn’t need to use too many change-ups – the drop-shots and net-rushes he had employed to switch the angle of attack against Mannarino – because he was too busy drilling his groundstrokes into shape for more serious tests to come.

This will hardly be welcome news for Norrie, who eased past fellow left-hander Alex Bolt of Australia by a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 scoreline. Norrie has now ground down 31 opponents on the ATP Tour this year – a tally that only Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev can surpass – but there is no magic to his method: just unblinking concentration and enormous physical stamina. Here is a man who can run 5,000 metres in 17mins 20sec.

Such athletic endurance may be an advantage when Norrie contests lengthy battles of the kind that took him to the third round of the recent French Open, but it is unlikely to help him much on Saturday. At 39, Federer will have no interest in becoming entangled in extended baseline rallies. Nobody in world tennis is better at shortening points, and we can expect a variety of shock tactics including numerous serve-volleys.

"I hope the crowd is going to be into it regardless of who they cheer for,” Federer told Lee McKenzie before he left Centre Court. “Whether it's for him or for me because of the last 20 years and all the big matches I have played here. Cam is a good guy. He's had a wonderful year, played great at Queen's [where he lost to Matteo Berrettini in the final] and he’s backed it up here. But enough now. He needs to go out. I need to go through.”

Federer’s return to form was another bonus for an event which is already thriving off the back of Andy Murray’s unexpected renaissance.

Several Wimbledon legends arrived at Wimbledon this year with a question-mark having over their heads: will this be their last outing in SW19? The Williams sisters, Murray and Federer all fell into that category. But as the BBC’s strong TV viewing figures demonstrate, the British public are not ready to wave farewell just yet.

06:30 PM

Aussie ace Nick Kyrgios is through

06:20 PM

That was a lot of fun

06:18 PM

Roger Federer speaks...

On the win…

“The roof is pulled back and the atmosphere is even better. I know Richard really well, we’ve played so many times together and it’s great to play him. After that brilliant backhand [of his] he inspired me to go on and win.”

On where his game is right now…

“I am happy with my level right now - it’s been a difficult year and a half. This year it’s good I made it here.”

On facing Briton’s Cam Norrie in the third round…

“I hope the crowd get into it, even if it’s for him! Cam’s a good guy, he’s had a wonderful year and I know it will be a tough match. But he has to go out now!”

06:10 PM

FEDERER WINS THE MATCH 7-6, 6-1, 6-4!!

Federer wins with an ace.

That was impressive from the Swiss - he wasn't at his best in the first set but from the first-set tiebreak onwards he went up the gears and looked mightily impressive. IN that sort of form you think another title isn't beyond the realms of possibility.

Poor Gasquet has now lost 25 sets in a row to the Swiss. You suspect he won't want to face him again any time soon.

06:04 PM

Federer* 7-6, 6-1, 5-4 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

The crowd nearly go wild when Federer attempts a hotdog (shot through the legs, in case you don't know) but it's long and Gasquet breathes a sigh of relief. He's soon under pressure again, though, as a sliced drop shot is wide and it's 30-30. Next shot the Frenchman goes long with a forehand and Federer has a match point. Gasquet saves that after he sends the Swiss wide out of the court. At deuce they play a bizarre point where both indulge in a spot of moonball - Federer's going wide. Gasquet then holds and makes sure Federer will have to serve out the match.

05:58 PM

Federer 7-6, 6-1, 5-3 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

Federer has found his touch and first serve. He's imperious at the moment, especially on serve and he holds to love in no time.

Gasquet will now serve to stay in the match.

05:56 PM

Federer* 7-6, 6-1, 4-3 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

Early on Federer slips, it looks like that is the fault of the troublesome turf. He gets up, though, and looks good to continue, phew...He is more than good to continue as he earns break point which he duly converts after scrambling for and reaching a bludgeoned Gasquet backhand which the Frenchman hits into the net. Advantage Federer.

05:52 PM

Federer 7-6, 6-1, 3-3 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

Federer is serve volleying a lot more now and uses that tactic to race to 40-0. A wild, wide forehand gifts Gasquet a rare point on the Swiss' serve but Federer holds to 15 the very next point. It's hard to see the Frenchman breaking the eight-time champion at the moment.

05:49 PM

Artists

05:49 PM

Federer* 7-6, 6-1, 2-3 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

At 30-30 the Gasquet serve is under pressure. A wide forehand gives Federer a break point but Gasquet comes out on top in a baseline battle to take it to deuce. Still under pressure Gasquet comes in off a serve serve and volleys impressively. He wraps up the game the next point. That was a gutsy hold.

05:46 PM

Federer 7-6, 6-1, 2-2 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

The Swiss is looking so strong on serve now. He's coming in off the first serve more and plays a volleyed winner to get to 40-0. From there it's not shock to see him hold to love.

05:43 PM

Federer* 7-6, 6-1, 1-2 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

Gasquet plays a rare shot - the one that goes past the net, not over, but still lands in court - that Federer reaches and gets to 40-30 from. The Frenchman holds from there, though, and this is a much better start to the third set from the world No.56 compared to the second.

05:39 PM

Federer 7-6, 6-1, 1-1 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

Federer is staying aggressive on the rallies, not giving Gasquet any chance to set a point up. Gasquet is stuck to the baseline and the Swiss comes into the net to play a drop volley winner and holds to 15.

05:36 PM

Federer* 7-6, 6-1, 0-1 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

It's important Gasquet starts the third set well and that's exactly what he does holding his serve to 15.

05:33 PM

FEDERER WINS SECOND SET 6-1!!

Two mishits in a row (more like the Federer of the early first set) gift Gasquet a break point. The pair then exchange in a baseline battle which sees Gasquet go long with a backhand. At deuce the Swiss plays a silky drop shot and he serves out the second set with an ace.

That second set was vintage Fed - so good to watch.

Gasquet has now lost his past 24 sets against the 20-time grand slam champion.

05:29 PM

Federer* 7-6, 5-1 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

Gasquet is under pressure and serving to stay in the second set. He does well, gets more of his first serves in and holds to 30.

Federer will now serve for the second set.

05:27 PM

Here's the shot of the tournament so far

Gasquet was still broken, though...

05:25 PM

Federer 7-6, 5-0 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

The Federer first serve is finding it's range he holds to love in just over a minute. The early fog has lifted and this is now imperious from the Swiss. In the past 25 minutes he's effortlessly gone up the gears and it's a joy to watch.

05:23 PM

Federer* 7-6, 4-0 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

Federer is on quite a roll right now - he's putting Gasquet's serve (so solid in the first set) under huge pressure and breaks to 30. He's raced into a 4-0 second-set lead.

05:19 PM

Federer 7-6, 3-0 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

Federer has found his feet and form now, he's playing some great groundstrokes and, for the past 20 mins at least, looks like the Federer of old. He holds to love and is looking better with every passing game.

05:18 PM

Federer* 7-6, 2-0 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

We have a new point of the match, if not the tournament. Receiving a Federer smash from the back of the court Gasquet clubs a backhand winner down the line that rocketed off the racquet at 102mph - brutal and sublime. Federer then plays a lovely forehand winner and this match is now serving up some brilliant stuff. From 40-0 down Federer earns a break point and having played one of the best backhands you'll ever see Gasquet is broken.

05:13 PM

Federer 7-6, 1-0 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

You thought that tiebreak victory would have settled Federer but he's a break point down early in the second set. Having fought back to deuce the Swiss plays a brilliant forehand winner after a rally both men contributed to - when on song both are fantastic, stylish players watch, more artists than artisans. The eight-time champion finally holds with another fine forehand.

05:08 PM

Kerber comes through (just...)

The 2018 champion was made to fight in the match of the tournament so far...

05:06 PM

FEDERER TAKES THE FIRST SET 7-6!

Federer gets on top early on going 2-0 up with the mini-break. An ace down the line makes it 3-0. The Swiss gets to 4-1 with the point of the match so far - Federer and Gasquet exchanging powerful 13 groundstrokes from the back of the court before he plays an exquisite passing shot that Gasquet cannot deal with. From there he earns five set points. He only needs one and is one set up.

05:01 PM

Federer 6-6 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

Gasquet's backhand is the dominant shot at the moment and Federer is still attacking that side. A brilliant backhand down the line from the Frenchman gives him the early advantage at 0-15, but from there Federer takes charge. He gets to service point with vintage Fed, moving his opponent around the court before coming into the net for a volleyed winner and holds to 30.

We're now in the tiebreak zone.

04:57 PM

Federer* 5-6 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

Federer at his best is all about anticipation, timing and artistry and he shows all three to get to 15-30 with a forehand crosscourt winner on the run. The first slip of the match sees Federer stumble at the baseline trying to get to a well disguised drop shot from Gasquet. The Swiss gets to deuce, however, and has an opportunity to put pressure on the Frenchman. Gasquet, though, hits a fine backhand winner and sees out the match the next point.

The Frenchman hasn't won a set against the Swiss in 10 years but now has a fine chance to break his duck.

04:52 PM

Federer 5-5 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

A wonderful Gasquet backhand down the line, with Federer attacking the net, illustrates that Gasquet has found his rhythm. But at 30-15 Federer serves an ace out wide and then holds to 15 thanks to another good first serve. Neither player is yet to blink.

04:49 PM

Federer * 4-5 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

Again the Frenchman is looking strong on serve, he holds to 15 and the pressure is back on Federer who will now serve to stay in the first set.

04:47 PM

Federer 4-4 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

A Federer forehand smash sends the crowd into raptures. That is followed up with a backhand crosscourt winner and the Swiss has two service points. But another unusual mistake - a forehand into the net from all of four yards - gives Gasquet a sniff at 40-30. Federer is having none of it and serves out for the hold. Better from the eight-time champion.

04:43 PM

Federer* 3-4 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

Gasquet is looking good on serve - he sends down an ace down the line before a long backhand from Federer allows the Frenchman to hold to 15. Very solid and impressive from the world No.56. Federer could do with a dominant service game now.

04:40 PM

Federer 3-3 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

Federer has only played 10 matches in the past 19 months and it's no huge shock to see him struggle for rhythm early on. Gasquet is attacking the second serve, standing inside the baseline, and earns a break point. The Swiss summons up three decent first serves and holds, just.

04:36 PM

Federer* 2-3 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

Here's a stat - Federer has won 102 matches at Wimbledon, the next best man is the Bad Boy from Illinois (aka Jimmy Connors) on 84, impressive. Gasquet has settled into this match well and holds to 30.

04:32 PM

Federer 2-2 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

That's more like it from the Swiss sensation - he holds to 15 in next to no time.

04:29 PM

Federer* 1-2 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

The crowd is treated to a bit of Federer brilliance as he plays a backhand winner down the line on the run. It's the only point he wins in the game as Gasquet powers down an ace to hold to 15.

04:27 PM

Federer 1-1 Gasquet* (*denotes next server)

Federer mishits a forehand and Gasquet powers a forehand winner - that's two mishits in the first two games from the Swiss - strange. The Frenchman has an early break point but Federer gets in a first serve and it's deuce. He's so dominant when he is in control of his first serve - he can dictate rallies. Gasquet has another break point, thanks to a fine sliced volley, that shot, however, is bettered by a Federer drop shot that the Frenchman cannot get close to. The Swiss serves out the game with an ace.

04:20 PM

Federer* 0-1 Gasquet (*denotes next server)

It's been 10 years since the Frenchman took a set off Federer, he serves first and is immediately under pressure at 0-30, a Federer forehand winner the pick of the early shots. Another blistering forehand, this one down the line, earns the Swiss a break point which he cannot capitalise on. At deuce he mishits a backhand and from there Gasquet wins it with a forehand winner crosscourt.

04:15 PM

The sun is out

HURRAH!

04:11 PM

Federer and Gasquet are on the hallowed (and hopefully not slippy) turf

These two know each other well. Both back from injuries. Can Gasquet get the better of the Swiss star for only the third time in 21 matches?

04:09 PM

Coco Gauff is back

And means business.

04:05 PM

The courts don't seem as slippy as on days one and two

Roger Federer's progression through to today's match is partly down to the treacherous slippy courts which saw his first round opponent Adrian Mannarino fall badly and have to retire at two sets apiece. Later on Tuesday, Serena Williams also came a cropper to the lush turf as she slipped and was also forced to retire hurt.

So what's was causing the players to slip more than usual?

Here's our very own Tom Morgan on the headline problem of earlier this week.

READ: Wimbledon Q&A: What is causing players to slip on court? And how can it be stopped?

Adrian Mannarino in agony after falling on the Centre Court surface - AFP
Adrian Mannarino in agony after falling on the Centre Court surface - AFP

03:58 PM

Carlos Alcaraz may have lost but...

...remember the name - he's a future star.

03:52 PM

Men's No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev is through

03:50 PM

Coco Guaff has beaten Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-3

03:49 PM

Richard Gasquet facts

  • The famous Frenchman is down to 56 in the world rankings. He was as high as No.7.

  • The 35-year old has won 15 ATP Tour titles and earned nearly $19 million in prize money.

  • Gasquet has enjoyed success on grass before, winning three of his tour-level titles on the surface.

  • He has reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon twice, with Federer beating him at that stage in 2007.

HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD vs FEDERER

The pair have faced each other 20 times with Federer coming out on top on 18 occasions. The Swiss has also won the past 22 sets they have played.

Gasquet and Federer - AFP
Gasquet and Federer - AFP

03:40 PM

Gasquet is feeling confident

The Frenchman thinks this could be a good time to face Federer...

“There is only one Roger Federer,” he said. “He’s an incredible player, the best player to watch. But it’s a big chance for me to go there and try my best to play the best match and win.”

Gasquet 
Gasquet

03:28 PM

Here's a lovely long read on Federer's love affair with Wimbledon

If someone's won a tournament eight times it's no surprise when you learn they adore it and cannot wait to return time and time again.

Our very own Simon Briggs has written a fine piece on the Swiss' adoration for SW19 and how it developed.

"The first key influence was Federer’s future wife Mirka Vavrinec – then a fellow member of the Swiss tennis team whom he met at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. According to Roger Federer: The Biography, an excellent new release from Rene Stauffer, “He would usually lose interest in training after an hour but he would watch her – stunned and full of admiration – as she trained for five or six hours without a break or a lapse in concentration.”

READ: Roger Federer and Wimbledon: a romance in three acts

Roger Federer 
Roger Federer

11:51 AM

Roger Federer still has a host of questions to answer

It’s not often you hear Roger Federer say: “he was the better player, I was lucky” and when you do you assume he has just beaten one of his arch rivals, Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal. That he said it having made it through to today’s match against Richard Gasquet courtesy of Adrian Mannarino’s retirement makes it all the more astounding.

The Swiss was two sets to one down against the Frenchman, who had only ever taken one set against him in six previous meetings, and was up against it. He was up in the fourth set when Mannarino slipped on the currently notorious Centre Court turf and hurt his knee. By the time they went into the fifth and deciding set Federer’s opponent decided he couldn’t go on.

Would Mannarino have gone on to beat the eight-time champion? We’ll never know but the former world No.1 was in no doubt that he got “lucky”.

What is not in doubt is that Federer has questions to answer. He came into the championships with question marks hanging over him about fitness and form - he was dumped out of the Halle tournament where he is a ten-time champion - and those remain ahead of his match against Gasquet. Federer will have to silence his critics against the experienced Frenchman.

After the first-round scare Federer spoke about the slippery court which had proved fatal to Mannarino’s victory hopes and later was to do the same to Serena Williams.

“It feels a tad more slippery maybe under the roof. You do have to move very, very carefully out there. If you push too hard in the wrong moments, you do go down,” the Swiss said.

“But it's always been like this. I feel for a lot of players it's super key to get through those first two rounds because the grass is more slippery, it is more soft. As the tournament progresses, usually it gets harder and easier to move on. This is obviously terrible that it's back-to-back matches and it hits Serena as well. Oh, my God, I can't believe it.”