French ace gives Federer a fright
It took Roger Federer five sets to overcome French challenger Julien Benneteau
Roger Federer avoided following Rafael Nadal out of Wimbledon by coming from two sets down to beat Julien Benneteau.
Second seed Nadal's exit to unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol on Thursday night was one of the greatest grand slam shocks in recent memory. Although a loss for Federer against the French 29th seed would not have been as great a surprise, it would still been a remarkable upset.
There was trouble against Benneteau when he fell two sets behind, spurning three set points in the process, but he found his rhythm and eventually dragged himself back from the brink to win 4-6 6-7 (7/3) 6-2 7-6 (8/6) 6-1.
He was helped by Benneteau visibly wilting as the match went on. A one-time quarter-finalist at Roland Garros, he rather rolled over in the third set and, despite taking the fourth to a tie-break, meekly conceded the fifth.
"It was a tough match, it was brutal and I had a bit of luck on my side," Federer said. "I knew it would be a difficult match and he played amazing. When I was down, I tried to stay calm. People can freak out, people are worried for you, you don't have many lives left. You try to take it point by point."
It had looked as though five sets would not be needed when Benneteau pulled ahead, taking the opener when he broke in the ninth - Federer netting a backhand.
The Swiss responded by taking his opponent's serve at the start of the second but uncharacteristically failed to cement the break, losing his own serve in the very next game. It was the Frenchman who saw off three set points in the 12th game of the second set and, no doubt buoyed by his escape, rushed to a tie-break win.
Out of keeping with the match at that point, the third set was a brisk affair, Federer breaking twice early on to take it, but the fourth returned to form, with both men holding through to a tie-break.
Benneteau did have to save three break points in the fifth game but was untroubled apart from that and, at 30-15 on Federer's serve in 12th, had half an opening. Victory, in theory, was two points away. He could not seize the chance however, and after saving one set point in the breaker he netted on the next and the match was levelled.
That was the green light Federer needed to reach the finish line first, breaking to love in the fourth game of the decider with a forehand around the net and again in the next Benneteau service game to see it out.