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Monday, June 24, 2013
Federer wastes no time in opener

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- Roger Federer, who turns 32 in August, may have trouble closing these days. Opening, however, has not yet become a problem.

At the recent French Open, two unfortunate qualifiers stumbled into the web of the 17-time Grand Slam singles champion. They won a total of 11 games between them and the two matches were the swiftest of the 96 played in the first two rounds among men.

Monday at 1 p.m., as is the right and privilege of the reigning men's champion, Federer was the first player to walk onto Centre Court for this fortnight. He departed only 69 minutes later after thrashing Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-3, 6-2, 6-0.

Roger Federer
Roger Federer lost only seven points on serve in his opener.
Federer was so dominant he lost only seven points on his serve, winning 49 of those 56 points. Weirdly enough, he's never been better here; in 2008, Federer dropped only 10 service points in the quarterfinals to Mario Ancic.

"If he serves well, plays big, plays the right way, breaks you early, or he can hang with you for a long period of time, then clearly that's what you also have to be ready for," Federer said later. "I pack my bags anyway for five sets every single time. So I'm happy that things went well out there today.

"I mean, in the first round, we've seen the surprise losses happen too often."

Not to Federer, not lately. The last time Federer lost in the first round? More than a decade ago, when Luis Horna stunned him in the first round of the French Open. Federer, of course, pulled himself together and six weeks later won the first of his record majors. For those of you counting at home, this was Federer's 40th straight successful Grand Slam opening.

This was not exactly surprising since Federer is now 122-17 on grass, which works out to 88 percent, the best of the Open era. This is significant, because Pete Sampras -- with whom Federer is tied, along with William Renshaw, for the most Wimbledon titles at seven -- played in the Open era. Federer's Wimbledon record is an ethereal 67-7, while Sampras was 63-7.

Before Monday, both men had played Wimbledon 14 times and won the championship in half of their opportunities. How's that for parity? Federer, unlike the retired Sampras, has a chance to be the first man to win eight Wimbledon titles. All he has to do is potentially beat Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in his last three matches.

Cake, right?

Grass, with all of its living complexities, is the surface that best suits Federer's regal and still astonishingly diverse game. Ingenuity is encouraged, creativity rewarded. Federer hadn't won a tournament in more than nine months when he broke through a week ago in Halle, Germany -- on grass. So, including last year's Wimbledon crown, two of Federer's last three victories have come on the green stuff. Those two wins came in just three opportunities on grass, including last year's Olympics, where he lost in the final here to Murray.

This first Wimbledon match went so quickly that afterward, Federer almost sounded disappointed.

"Yeah, the longer the match, the longer you spend on Centre Court, it's not a bad thing," he said. "That's what I was thinking today. It went by very quickly. But I guess at the end of the day you'd prefer to have it this way, walk away as a winner instead of being out there for five hours and losing in the first round."

There is a growing belief among tennis aficionados that Federer may have won his last major. Consider that a year ago, he became the oldest singles champion since Arthur Ashe in 1975. Federer recently won his 900th match and every match he plays brings a daunting tsunami of statistics in its wake.

The best of Monday: Hanescu is one of 22 players Federer has played five times or more without a defeat (0-6). It's interesting to note that Hanescu, a fixture in the top 100 for more than a decade, is actually a month older than Federer.

Over the years, Federer said, he has come to appreciate the defending champion's first match here.

"In some ways," Federer said, "once I understood what it's all about, opening Monday, the defending champion gets the honor to open the court. Ever since, it's been an amazing day and match to be part of. And I see it also for the other players. They always think it's super exciting being a part of that match.

"I'm happy I won them all. That helps to enjoy it."