By Julien Pretot
PARIS (Reuters) – Roger Federer’s dream return to the French Open continued as the Swiss waltzed into quarter-finals by giving Argentine Leonardo Mayer a 6-2 6-3 6-3 masterclass on Sunday.
The 20-times Grand Slam champion, back at Roland Garros after a three-year hiatus, edged closer to a potential semi-final showdown with champion Rafael Nadal by cruising through the opening rounds seemingly unchallenged and his last-16 encounter was no exception.
Things are likely to get trickier for Federer from now on as the third seed will next face a resurgent Stan Wawrinka, the champion in 2015 who beat Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set thriller.
On Sunday, however, it appeared as if Federer was enjoying a leisurely stroll in the Parisian sun.
After just over an hour, Federer was already two sets up.
The 37-year-old played effortlessly, smacking winners around the court with self-confidence.
Mayer offered some semblance of resistance in the third set until the sixth game, when Federer broke decisively, ending his opponent’s ordeal on the first match point.
“Big serving, windy, it was tough conditions. We didn’t have many baseline rallies that were sort of neutral,” said Federer.
“Either one was always pressing and the other guy was defending.”
It was Mayer who did most of the defending against Federer, who won his only French Open title 10 years ago.
Federer showed off his full repertoire of shots — the single-handed backhand, some chip-and-charge tennis, sliced backhands — to dispatch the Argentine on Court Philippe Chatrier.
With the Big Three — Federer, Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic — showing little signs of giving up their stranglehold of men’s tennis, the Swiss is aware that when they do eventually retire, it will leave a gaping hole in the sport.
“It’s hard to reinvent the wheel. But of course maybe Rafa, Novak, and me, we have something special, whatever that is. It’s maybe a combination of many things,” said Federer.
“But sure, I think a lot of my fans or Novak’s fans or Rafa’s fans, when either one of us retires, we’ll feel a bit of a void. But I think it will just take a few years after that to fall in love with another player.
“Because if you love tennis, you don’t love the game because of one player. I think it’s because of the sport and what it does to you and how you feel about it.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Toby Davis)