<
>

Federer struggling after five-day holiday

7/5/2007

TOO MUCH TIME OFF FOR FEDERER?

By Greg Garber, ESPN.com

WIMBLEDON, England -- Somewhere, in a rented flat a few blocks from the All England club, Rafael Nadal is laughing.

Nadal was in the tenuous situation of playing a single match over a five-day period -- while Roger Federer didn't play a single point. Perhaps the Swiss finally was visited by a bit of anxiety.

PHOTO OF THE DAY

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Mikhail Youzhny was up two sets to love versus Rafael Nadal before he slowly began deteriorating with an aching back.

STAT OF THE DAY

29 -- Rafael Nadal has won each of his last two Wimbledon matches in five sets. The active player with the most career five-set wins is Jonas Bjorkman (29).

BAGHDATIS, NADAL MOVE ON

Federer's Thursday ended here at about 7:15 p.m., local time when his match with Juan Carlos Ferrero was suspended with the score 5-all in the first set. At least he got some games in.

Andy Roddick and Richard Gasquet were warming up for their quarterfinal match when rain sent them to the locker room at 3:49 p.m.

Play will resume, weather permitting, of course, on Friday morning. Both Federer's and Roddick's matches are scheduled second on Centre Court and Court 1, after the quarterfinal matches from the bottom of the draw conclude.

Much transpired in Great Britain since Federer beat Marat Safin in a third-round match last Friday:

• On Saturday, two suspected al-Qaeda terrorists, Khalid Ahmed and Bilal Abdulla, crashed a burning Jeep into Glasgow Airport.
• On Sunday, official word came that model Kate Moss and Babyshambles frontman Pete Doherty are splitting up.
• On Monday, pubs were smokeless for the first time in history
• On Tuesday, new Prime Minister Gordon Brown's honeymoon ended as he drew criticism from opposition politicians about his handling of the threats to Britain's security.
• On Wednesday, BBC journalist Alan Johnston was freed after 114 days of captivity by the Army of Islam in Gaza.
• Earlier Thursday, Manchester United appeared to have won the race to sign Copa America forward Carlos Tevez with a 12-million pound package.

A fourth-round walkover, courtesy of injured Tommy Haas, gave Federer a full work week off, a layoff so long he could have flown home to Oberwil, Switzerland. Roddick joked that he probably was taking the red double-deck bus tour around London. In fact, Federer dodged the raindrops and followed the progress of the Swiss syndicate Alinghi en route to the America's Cup triumph.

After that virtually unprecedented five-day holiday from tennis, Federer looked understandably out of sorts. And then, on the third point of his match against Ferrero, he drilled two aces.

Still, Federer struggled against Ferrero in the first set. Dodgy Rodgy, as the British might say.

Federer was serving at 5-3, when four consecutive errors -- the last a forehand sprayed long and wide -- gave Ferrero the game at love. He got even and was pressing Federer at 5-all, deuce, when a large band of showers drifted in from the west.

You know what happened next.

PENNIES FROM HEAVEN

WIMBLEDON, England -- And they say Roger Federer has had all the luck this fortnight.

The four-time defending champion had five days off between matches, the same five days that Rafael Nadal needed to close out his third-round match against Robin Soderling.

Well, Nadal -- a finalist here last year -- found himself trailing Mikhail Youzhny two sets to love, when the 21-year-old Spaniard received his own pennies from heaven.

That was when Youzhny's aching back, which forced him to withdraw from his quarterfinal match at the Wimbledon warm-up tournament in Halle, Germany, became a factor again. Inspired by this sudden opportunity, Nadal rallied to win 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to advance to a quarterfinal match scheduled for Friday.

He'll face Tomas Berdych, a 21-year-old from the Czech Republic who defeated Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 6-0, 6-7 (6), 6-0.

It was the second straight five-set match for Nadal, who also came back from an 0-2 deficit (against American Robert Kendrick) in last year's tournament here.

The other quarterfinal matchup from the lower half of the men's draw features No. 4 seed Novak Djokovic versus No. 10 Marcos Baghdatis.

"The last three sets, I never play better," Nadal said, failing to acknowledge Youzhny's back injury. "I never play like this on grass. Very aggressive all time, serving well, returning very well, especially the second serve."

Yes, but what about Youzhny's back?

"I can say nothing because I didn't speak with him after the match," the No. 2 seed said. "But, anyway, I'm sorry for him if he has any problem. Anyway, I play good game and I don't know if it affected him."

Youzhny was more forthcoming, possibly because he was the one feeling the pain.

"It disturb me a lot during the year," he said. "It was [in] Halle the same. I play good, pass two rounds, but start to feel after second round. When I play a lot, it's unbalanced more and more and I start to feel pain. I cannot move like I move in the first and second set.

"Is problem against Nadal. Very tough [to] beat him if you are not moving good."

Youzhny, frankly, always has been a pain in Nadal's, uh, résumé. Believe it or not, he's got a better record (3-5) against Nadal than Federer (4-8) has against the Spaniard. Youzhny defeated Nadal in four sets in the quarterfinals of last year's U.S. Open. The 25-year-old Russian is ranked No. 13 in world, a career high, and has a tournament win in Rotterdam and two finals (Doha and Munich) this season.

But now he's just another casualty of Nadal, who is 13-3 in his four Wimbledon appearances. Berdych, with a record of 3-2 against Nadal, is one of the few players to have a winning record against the reigning three-time French Open champion.

"I think it's not the statistic which is the advantage," Berdych said. "I think the advantage is that we're not going to play on the clay court. If we're going to play clay court, I can be 5-1 and still it's like nothing. But if we playing hard or indoor, then I have a chance."

Nadal did not disagree.

"Sure," he said. "He won the tournament in Halle. He's an unbelievable player. For tomorrow, I think for the surface, for everything, he is the favorite, no?"