IT IS not a good idea to sting Roger Federer into concerted action on a tennis court.
Albert Montanes of Spain discovered that to his cost as Federer chugged and then fairly purred through to the French Open third round with a 6-7 6-1 6-0 6-4 victory yesterday.
Montanes, ranked 60 in the world, had the nerve to take the first set off the world number one who is bidding to lift the only Grand Slam not to have occupied his trophy cabinet.
He paid for it by becoming the victim of two of the best clay court sets Federer has played all year.
Federer explained it in his own unique way.
“It was tough going down a set but I bounced back well,” he said. “The conditions were tough and playing 10 games in the rain was not a whole lot of fun.”
“He is a tough opponent and he has a good game,” Federer said.
Federer now faces one of his best pals on tour, big-serving Croat Mario Ancic, in the third round. “He’s been playing okay. He’s a good friend of mine and it should be a good match,” was Federer’s assessment.
Ancic might like to know, although probably not, that Federer marks the third round as the point when he begins to enjoy a tournament. Federer said: “I always feel easier after the first two rounds.
“It is slowing down in the locker room, the first pressure rounds are over and you can focus on enjoying the tournament and not just wanting not to lose. You start going for your shots a little more.”
Meanwhile, Seventh seed James Blake admitted he got his tactics all wrong in his surprise second-round defeat by Latvian teenager Ernests Gulbis.
The American joined David Nalbandian in becoming a high-profile casualty on day five at Roland Garros as he lost 7-6 (7/2) 3-6 7-5 6-3 to the 19-year-old.
“It’s really frustrating for me to play a match like that when I know my game. I was just a little too passive.”
Argentina’s Nalbandian, the sixth seed, let slip a two-set lead to go down to world number 145 Jeremy Chardy.
The French wildcard won 3-6 4-6 6-2 6-1 6-2, although Nalbandian appeared to be moving gingerly towards the end of a match that lasted more than three hours.
Russian seeds Mikhail Youzhny and Dmitry Tursunov notched straight-sets wins just before play was suspended for rain at Roland Garros around 3.30pm local time.
In the women’s contest, third seed Jelena Jankovic blamed heavy balls and the humid weather for the arm injury she suffered midway through her second-round defeat of Marina Erakovic. The Serbian hurt her right forearm at the start of the second set but fought on to seal a 6-2 7-6 (7/5) win and set up a clash with 28th seed Dominika Cibulkova.
Jankovic, 23, said: “It happened at the start of the second set and gradually got worse and worse. For me, the balls were a little bit heavier because the weather is humid and the court is wet.
“The game was much slower than usual. And so, from hitting so many balls, my arm got very tight at first and I started to have pain.’’
Eighth seed Venus Williams was also an early winner, beating Tunisia’s Selima Sfar 6-2 6-4.
Amelie Mauresmo, the 22nd seed, failed again in her bid to win her home grand slam as she sank to a disappointing 6-3 6-4 defeat to Carla Suarez Navaro.
But Alize Cornet continues to fly the French flag, the 19th seed sealing a hard-fought 6-0 4-6 6-4 victory over Argentina’s Gisela Dulko.
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