By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) – Roger Federer kept tennis statisticians on their toes on Saturday as he mopped up a few more records by trampling all over Lucas Pouille’s dreams in a rip-roaring 7-5 6-2 7-6(4) win to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon.
The Swiss became the first player – man or woman – to win 350 singles matches at the majors.
But as the father of two sets of twins, Federer seems to have a penchant for doing things in pairs and Saturday was no different as he also set a professional era record of reaching the last 16 for the 17th time – surpassing the previous benchmark he had shared with Jimmy Connors.
The Swiss is unlikely to be popping champagne corks to celebrate either milestone, however, as he has his eyes firmly set on much, much bigger prizes – a record ninth Challenge Cup and a 21st Grand Slam title.
To get closer to that, however, he will first have to negotiate his way past Italian 17th seed Matteo Berrettini.
While the hollering fans gave Federer a standing ovation as he completed his 350th match win at the majors just a month shy of his 38th birthday, the world’s favorite tennis son was more circumspect about the record.
“I know back in the amateur times, they were not playing all the slams because it was too far to travel to some places,” said the Swiss after saluting the crowd which included Grand Slam champions of the caliber of Rod Laver, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.
“It’s a nice number to achieve and I have enjoyed my time at the slams. They’ve given me some of the most memorable and special moments on a tennis court, so of course it’s nice winning that much.
“I don’t know how many years I have got left but at the moment I am really enjoying myself. I love to move on the grass, it comes very naturally to me so for me to win today was great … it’s been wonderful.”
Australian Open semi-finalist Pouille was cheered on by his coach Amelie Mauresmo as he played his part in an entertaining match that was more keenly contested than the score suggests but he bowed out after netting a backhand on Federer’s third match point.
Pouille had a break point at 3-3 in the first set and again at 5-5. A Federer in full flight had to hit three slam dunk smashes in a row to stay alive in the 11th game – an effort that lifted the roaring crowd to their feet.
Once he survived that mini wobble, he rolled through six successive games before Pouille unexpectedly ended the run by breaking the Federer serve. While it was not enough to rescue the second set, it gave the Frenchman the belief to fight on.
But sometimes belief is just not enough – especially when the man opposite you is closing in on a century of match wins at the All England Club – with Saturday being his 98th triumph.
“It was tough. It was a hardfought match especially in that first set. He had break point at 5-all. It was a tough hold there and go on a little run there, that was nice,” summed up Federer.
“That was maybe the key to the match. In the third it was tough, it was very even so there is always a relief winning a third set breaker because if it goes the other way, we might be here for another few hours.”
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ed Osmond)