Roger Federer took a step nearer history when he moved imperiously into the third round of Wimbledon today.
The defending champion, who is bidding to become the first man since William Renshaw in the 19th Century to win the men’s singles six times in a row, defeated Sweden’s Robin Soderling 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7/3) in a Centre Court match which was rarely more than routine.
It did not help Soderling’s cause that he was playing with a large blister on his left foot, for which he received treatment during the second set, but he produced far too many mistakes to trouble the top seed.
With Novak Djokovic removed from Federer’s side of the draw, having fallen to Marat Safin, the world number one appears to have an increasingly comfortable ride through to the final.
Federer’s verdict: “I’m happy with the way I played. I’m moving well. The performance was excellent today.”
Soderling had given Rafael Nadal a few problems last year in an epic rain-affected match but he had not beaten Federer in six previous meetings.
In fact, he had only once taken a set off the Swiss. He never looked like doing so during a second round match in which Federer’s serving was consistently destructive.
The champion broke the Soderling serve in the second game in the first set and the first game in the second set and the momentum wrested was crucial.
Federer had predicted a “difficult” match, probably because Soderling had won 26 out of his 37 previous singles matches this year and had finished runner-up in Rotterdam and Memphis.
However, the Swede simply made too many unforced errors, the most spectacular one a drive volley which just missed Federer’s head but unfortunately for Soderling also the baseline.
The third set was the most competitive, Soderling settling into a better rhythm, breaking the Federer serve in the sixth game, the first time the Swiss star’s serve had been broken on grass this year.
Soderling’s sixth ace then gave him a set point and the chance to claw his way back into the match in the ninth game but he squandered the opportunity with a series of unforced errors.
And, once back on track, Federer took advantage ruthlessly, forcing the tie-breaker which he claimed in dominant fashion.