Federer, again, silences the young
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Someday will remain on hold for 22-year-old Canadian Milos Raonic and the rest of his emerging generation in this Grand Slam.
Raonic's firepower and drive -- backed by a palpable ambition -- were doused by Roger Federer, who logged a methodical 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory over the 13th seed and has yet to lose to anyone born in 1990 or later. It was the second straight match in which Federer, 31, neutralized a much younger player with economical dispatch and made the alleged disadvantage of his age a nonfactor.
Federer was so sharp that it might have been difficult for Raonic to stay with him on his best night -- which this wasn't. In his postmatch news conference, Raonic revealed that he'd been cleared to play only 45 minutes before the match because of a foot injury. He began feeling pain in his left foot warming up for practice Sunday, and it worsened overnight. An MRI diagnosed inflammation in a metatarsal joint of his left foot, and he received a numbing shot.
Raonic cranked 19 aces to Federer's 14 but often foundered when Federer extended the points, committing 41 unforced errors. He said he never considered withdrawing before or during the match and made no excuses, saying he used the experience as a self-teaching tool.
"Even though I was limited in some things, there's some things to compete with Roger, to compete with Novak [Djokovic], to compete with Andy [Murray], to compete with Rafa [Nadal] that I need to do better," Raonic said. "I take those things and I learn. I've had moments sort of like, and I've had history in my matches, where things don't go my way. I sort of just bow out, and I'm not really as competitive. But I'm happy with sort of how I managed it given the circumstances, just sort of kept pushing.
"I know my chances are low, but who knows what can happen. & You go out there trying to win and you try to make the most of it, knowing if in any way I got through today, I'd have two days for it to get better. You don't take these tournaments for granted. I know I'll play many more of these. But every one's just as important as if it was sort of the last."
Federer came into the interview room first and thus was not asked about Raonic's injury. Monday's win followed a decisive straight-sets victory over 20-year-old Australian Bernard Tomic, but Federer wouldn't take reporters' bait on the topic of age and downplayed any extra motivation he draws from bridging the generation gap.
"I just try to go out there and play my best, regardless if they're young or not," he said. "But I get a lift, as well, in terms of energy playing against those kind of guys. But I don't try to hit harder or intimidate them because they've seen the big serves and they've seen the great movement around. They know what it's all about.
"Yeah, I don't play so much with the fear factor and all that stuff. I really just try to beat them. That's the only thing."
The two superlative servers predictably arm-wrestled to a stalemate for most of the first set, which ended abruptly when Raonic netted a volley for the only service break. Federer, clearly running on a full tank of desire, let out an enormous roar when he struck a forehand winner to seal the second-set tiebreaker, and dominated the third, closing out the action in less than two hours. He hasn't lost his serve through four matches and next faces France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, whom he's beaten in eight of 11 previous meetings.
Third seed Andy Murray, the other marquee man in action Monday, faced an opponent with much more obvious physical issues in what amounted to a practice session against a depleted Gilles Simon, winning 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.
Simon survived a wacky late-night five-set marathon against countryman Gael Monfils in the third round, but it cost him any chance of being able to perform at his usual level Monday. "I just did all I could for the last two days to be able to play this one," said the 14th-seeded Simon, who was unable to walk without assistance after the ordeal.
"It was a painful hour and a half on the court. But, you know, Andy is anyway a very good player, so it's always very hard to beat him. Without being 100 percent you have almost no chance to do it."
Great Britain's Murray said he essentially tried to put Simon out of his misery as quickly as possible and called the late-afternoon match "a tough situation for both players" -- more obviously for him. "You know, after the first few games, I mean, it didn't feel like that competitive," Murray said. "That's why it becomes hard, because the emotions aren't quite into it."
An obviously relaxed Federer joked with on-court interviewer Jim Courier after his match, saying he donned an undershirt before the third set to keep his "huge muscles" warm on a cool night. "I think it's my left arm that's particularly impressive," he said. "Scary, scary stuff."
His strength is pretty obvious in the latest Open era record he extended: 35 straight Grand Slam event quarterfinals, a feat he attributed to a leveling of surface speeds at the majors that makes it "easier to play more consistent today," he said.
"Maybe I'm taking away things from me a little bit from myself," Federer said.
That's OK. No one else will.
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