Recreational players, take heart: Even Roger Federer gets nervous. The seven-time Wimbledon champion admitted to feeling a few nerves at the start of his second-round match on Thursday against Serbian Dusan Lajovic. The butterflies affected his play as well, as Federer was broken in his first service game and fell behind 2-0 in the first set.
But the Swiss right-hander quickly resumed regular proceedings and dazzled a packed Centre Court crowd en route to reaching the third round at the All England Club for the 15th time. Federer advanced 7-6(0), 6-3, 6-2 against Lajovic, who was looking to make the third round for the first time.
“I think I just struggled early on. I was feeling nerves for some reason. Not sure why. But I was able to come back in the set, breaking at 2-0. I think it was big for me… Then I played a great ‘breaker. I think from then on I never looked back,” Federer said. “I got early breaks in sets two and three and was able to protect my serve in a good way. He never really found ways to get into my service games on first and second serves. That obviously relaxes you, and then you can go for more on the return.”
Federer said he usually doesn’t feel nervous before a match, even at Wimbledon. For instance, he felt fine before his first-round contest. But for whatever reason, the unsettling feelings came back on Thursday.
“I think in the third round I will feel better again. It’s weird how sometimes you can be way more nervous for a second round than, say, for a final, believe it or not,” Federer said. “I’m happy I got through this one feeling the way I did, because in a way it’s strange playing this way when you’re so tense. Yet you have nothing to lose or in a way, that’s what I’m telling myself, just play freely. It’s not just that simple once you get out there.”
Federer will face a familiar foe as he attempts to make the second week of the grass-court Grand Slam: 27th seed Mischa Zverev of Germany, who beat Kazakhstani Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-2, 2-6, 3-6, 6-4 in three hours and five minutes.
The 35 year old leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-0, including two wins earlier this season. Last month, Federer beat Zverev on the grass at the Gerry Weber Open 7-6(4), 6-4 en route to his eighth Halle title.
“I have played him on several occasions now, and he’s played me different every time. In Australia, he played me really close on the second serve and would try to attack me, everything that he saw that was short he would come [in on]. Whereas in Halle when I played him, he played from way back, which is highly unusual on the grass,” Federer said.
“I guess I don’t know quite what to expect in the match on Saturday. But because he serves and volleys, points are played differently. Tomorrow and the next day I will train and warm up with left-handed players. I think that’s always the biggest switch when you play against an opponent who is left-handed, that whole swinging serve, kicking serve, especially getting used to the returning is most important.”
Zverev has already matched his best Wimbledon result by reaching the third round. He plans to go all out against Federer during their fifth FedEx ATP Head2Head match-up.
“How am I going to approach that match? How do you approach matches against Federer at Wimbledon?” Zverev said, smiling. “I don’t know. I think this time I will try to go all or nothing, maybe even more than before… First of all, I’m going to try to recover, feel 100 per cent, at least in the beginning of the match, then see how it goes. Hopefully he’s going to have not his best day, ’cause if he has one of those days, it’s really tough to beat him. It’s very tough, believe me.”
Federer was broken only once against Lajovic. From there, the Swiss star was in control, winning 11 of the 12 final points in the first set to take the opener. He’d break Lajovic four times in the match and finish with 31 winners to only 15 unforced errors.
All facets of Federer’s game were on point. He kept Lajovic uncomfortable with deep, flat groundstrokes and attacked the net just as well, winning 23 of his 31 net trips (74 per cent).
Zverev was glad to hear about one part of Federer’s second-round match – the fact that the seven-time champion felt nervous. “Good, he’s human,” Zverev said before laughing.
The German then brainstormed ways he could replicate that feeling in Federer before their third-round match on Saturday.
“I don’t know if it’s something I can do or he can do to himself. I’ll maybe give him a mean, angry look before the match. I have no idea,” Zverev said. “We’ll see what’s going to happen. So far every time we have seen each other, we’ve been joking around in the locker room or warm-up area. He seemed pretty relaxed to me.”