Federer romps past Nalbandian

Roger Federer sent a warning shot to his Wimbledon title rivals with a ruthless victory over former finalist David Nalbandian on Centre Court.

Roger Federer sent a warning shot to his Wimbledon title rivals with a ruthless victory over former finalist David Nalbandian on Centre Court.

The third-round clash looked potentially a tricky one for the third seed against the former world number three.

But Federer made it look anything but, polishing off a 6-4 6-2 6-4 victory in an hour and 46 minutes.

Before Rafael Nadal came along, Nalbandian was arguably Federer’s main rival and a man who caused him significant trouble, with the Swiss losing their first five encounters, two of them in grand slams.

Nalbandian was a surprise finalist at Wimbledon in 2002, losing to Lleyton Hewitt, but his career has been blighted by injuries in recent years.

Indeed, the Argentinian’s last appearance in the fourth round of a major came at the French Open in 2007, but the all-round quality of his game meant he was someone Federer would have been extremely wary of.

The six-time Wimbledon champion came into the tournament in superb form and he converted his second break point to move ahead in the third game.

Nalbandian fought hard, missing two chances in the next game before levelling at 3-3 when Federer fired a forehand wide, but the Argentinian was broken again immediately and this time he could not claw back the deficit.

Federer played arguably the best clay-court tennis of his career to reach the final at the French Open earlier this month before falling to another Roland Garros defeat at the hands of Nadal.

After a shaky spell in 2010, the 16-time grand slam champion has been keen to stress that he has been back on form for a good while, despite 18 months without winning one of the four majors.

He certainly had no trouble timing the ball today, with one forehand down the line drawing gasps from the crowd and putting Nalbandian in trouble in the opening game of the second set.

And again it was the South American who cracked first to hand Federer another break.

The sheer pace of the third seed’s forehand was proving too much for Nalbandian, and the set was all but over when he broke again before serving it out after just over an hour of play.

Considering Federer had won all 177 previous matches at grand slams in which he had been two sets to love up, Nalbandian’s task was an uphill one to say the least.

He began the third set by taking an injury time-out for some treatment to his right thigh, and it was not long before his serve was under threat again.

Two exquisite passing shots from Federer, the first hit while he was running backwards, helped him create a chance in the third game of the third set but this time Nalbandian came up with an ace.

The set was much closer but the third seed was serving at 71% of first serves in, and his opponent simply could not make any headway.

Instead, it was Federer who gained the crucial break in the ninth game thanks to a Nalbandian double fault and forehand error.

Almost unbelievably, the Swiss missed the simplest of smashes on his first match point, and Nalbandian dug in to save two more.

But on the fourth Nalbandian fired a forehand long to seal an impressive victory for Federer, who next faces either Nicolas Almagro or Mikhail Youzhny.

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