Roger Federer was in record-breaking, if not sparkling, form at the French Open today as he joined world number one Novak Djokovic in the third round at Roland Garros.
Federer’s 6-3 6-2 6-7 (6/8) 6-3 victory over Adrian Ungur of Romania was his 234th in grand slam matches, taking him past the previous record held by Jimmy Connors that he equalled on Monday.
Were it not for the significance, Federer would probably want to forget today’s encounter after letting slip two match points and a 6-4 lead in the third-set tie-break.
The 30-year-old was not timing the ball particularly well, but managed to dig in when Ungur, ranked 92nd in the world, threatened a break at the start of the fourth set.
Federer admitted he made some poor choices during the third and fourth sets but was not unduly worried.
The 30-year-old said: “I made two bad decisions on break points at the beginning of the third set, and I had started doing that at the end of the second set.
“I was lucky. I reached the tie-break. And instead of being aggressive, I let him show me what he could do. He played two beautiful shots, and then I started not playing very well.
“We came to the fourth set. I made some decisions which were probably not the best ones but, at the end of the day, I had some margin. I did not lose any of my service games.”
Djokovic also did not have things all his own away against Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic, the top seed coming from a break down in the second set to triumph 6-0 6-4 6-4 and rack up a 23rd consecutive grand slam win.
The 25-year-old admitted he let his opponent back in after winning the first seven games, but gave Kavcic, who had a point for a 4-1 lead in the second set, plenty of credit.
Djokovic, who plays French qualifier Nicolas Devilder in round three, said: “He was defending really well in the second and third sets, especially in the second. He wasn’t missing as many balls as in the first set.
“But I gave him the opportunity to come back into the match after a perfect first set, first seven games. But this is tennis. He didn’t have anything to lose and he showed his quality. I’m happy with my game overall.”
Ninth seed Juan Martin Del Potro looked in trouble at a set and a break down and struggling with a knee problem against France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin, but he turned things around to triumph 6-7 (5/7) 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 6-4.
Del Potro, who meets 21st seed Marin Cilic next in an intriguing third-round clash, revealed afterwards his left knee is “a constant bother”.
It was the end of the road, though, for America’s Brian Baker, whose professional comeback has been one of the stories of the season.
Among the world’s leading juniors a decade ago, Baker was so troubled by injuries that he went back to college and began coaching before deciding to give the professional game one final go last year.
Baker, now 27, won a Challenger in the US last month to earn a French Open wild card and last week reached the final of the ATP World Tour event in Nice as a qualifier.
He beat Xavier Malisse in round one here and it looked like the fairytale would continue when he fought back from two sets to love down today against 11th seed Gilles Simon to level.
But playing his first five-set match proved one step too far and the Frenchman ran away with the decider to triumph 6-4 6-1 6-7 (4/7) 1-6 6-0.
Baker has come a long way in a year, from the Middle Tennessee Tennis League to the main court at Roland Garros, and he said: “I think when I get back to the hotel room at night, it kind of sinks in a little bit. I can understand maybe that I’m accomplishing some pretty cool things right now.
“Hopefully there will be more to come but this was definitely the biggest thing that I’ve done since coming back, and probably the last couple weeks has been the biggest things I’ve accomplished in my career so far.
“It’s definitely going to be something that I’ll be able to look back and say that I played on centre court at the French Open and went five sets, even though hopefully I’ll forget about what happened in the fifth.”
Baker will be a strong candidate for a Wimbledon wild card, and he added: “Playing main draw Wimbledon would be an awesome thing. I haven’t sat down with anybody to inquire about what my chances of getting a wild card would be or how I’d go about that.”
Simon next faces Swiss 18th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who defeated Pablo Andujar of Spain 7-6 (7/3) 6-7 (4/7) 6-2 6-1.
Cilic saw off former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-6 (7/4) 6-2 6-3, while 14th seed Fernando Verdasco came from a set down to beat Gilles Muller 6-7 (5/7) 6-3 6-2 6-2.
Fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will resume his match against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe at one set all tomorrow after the first rain of the tournament forced an early end to play.