By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Roger Federer’s warmup was probably more taxing than his fourth-round match at Wimbledon on Monday as he raced into a record-extending 17th quarter-final with a ruthless dismissal of exciting young Italian Matteo Berrettini.
On paper it looked like being Federer’s first serious test of the tournament against the powerful 17th seed with form on grass, but it proved no-contest as the Swiss won 6-1 6-2 6-2 in one hour 14 minutes.
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer, as usual, was immaculate but the 23-year-old Berrettini self-destructed.
The Italian complained that he could not see the ball as his Centre Court debut turned into a nightmare and his game disintegrated. Federer barely broke sweat.
While an over-anxious Berrettini thrashed around with little effect, Federer, approaching his 38th birthday, glided across the turf in his usual silky fashion as another of the game’s so-called next generation was swatted aside.
Federer makes it all look so easy but loose-limbed displays like this require some graft these days.
“I think I have to warm up much more than I used to which is not the most fun bit, to be honest,” Federer, who will play Kei Nishikori in his 55th Grand Slam quarter-final, told reporters.
“I used to jump up and down for a minute when I was 21 or 19. Now we go through this entire routine. I’m like, Really, do we really have to do it?
“I guess it helps, so I’m doing it. When I get bored of it, I’ll stop playing tennis completely or I’ll stop that routine first before I stop playing.”
Berrettini can fire down 140mph serves and owns a whipcrack forehand not unlike Rafael Nadal’s. Sadly, for him and his dream of becoming only the fifth Italian to reach the men’s singles quarter-finals here, both malfunctioned.
The writing was on the wall for Berrettini in the third game when he hooked a forehand long to give Federer a break point which he converted with a smash.
Federer took the opening set in 17 minutes and the second was barely more competitive.
Berrettini was over-trying, over-wrought and overwhelmed and he blazed an easy smash wide in the third game of the second set, then misfired two forehands to gift another break.
Federer held in the next game when his backhand located a bump on the baseline, kept low, and Berrettini swished at thin air. Any tactical plan Berrettini had taken on court with him was already in tatters, his thinking muddled.
A dreadful drop shot gave Federer another break and when Berrettini left court at the end of the second set it was presumably to try to find a panic room in the grounds.
It did not help. When he dribbled a dreadful attempt at a drop-volley into the net on the way to going 4-0 down even Federer looked aghast, shaking his head at his opponent’s error.
It was a shame for Berrettini who is clearly a much better player than this performance suggested.
There was sympathetic applause from the crowd when he did occasionally connect properly but Federer was having none of it as a sweet volley put him out of his misery.
Berrettini will not get much sympathy from his coaches either.
“His coach congratulated me and thanked me almost,” Federer said. “I was like, Why? He was like, it’s good for him to get a lesson. You guys are a bit tough, but I get it.
“It’s important he’s not too disappointed because he’s had a great run. I lost sometimes the hard way.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Fallon)