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No.1 Court rose to applaud the entrance of Roger Federer, the greatest-ever champion of this hallowed event, and he did not disappoint any of them, except perhaps any Italians in the audience as he crushed Paolo Lorenzi 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in an hour and 33 minutes to clock up his 68th victory, including seven titles, in what is his 16th consecutive appearance at The Championships.
In sharp contrast, poor Lorenzi is still seeking a first win in any of the four Grand Slams but he can console himself with the thought of a first round loser’s cheque for £27,000 and a free lesson from one of the true masters of the art of tennis.
The welcome for Federer contained the warmth of familiarity. At Wimbledon Roger is the closest thing to what in other walks of life would be classed a season ticket holder.
Nor did he disappoint, with the possible exception of a late, late stumble when he squandered five match points before putting away an opponent who, to his credit, did not appear daunted by the reputation of the man on the other side of the net.
Lorenzi, favouring the Lleyton Hewitt back-to-front cap style, possesses a mean, flat forehand and whenever possible tried to take the game to Federer by rushing the net, a tactic that tended to owe more to ambition than judgement. He was frequently picked off or passed and Federer’s post-match assessment was typically modest: “For me it was a solid match. I served well, returned well and also tried to come forward a bit. I could do everything out there and am very pleased.”
With his new coaching advisor Stefan Edberg at courtside, Federer came out like a well-tuned Formula One machine, but there were early indications of Lorenzi’s taste for battle when the Swiss had to fight off a brace of break points before establishing a 3-0 lead. And again, when Federer led 5-1 and served for the first set, Lorenzi held three break points until an ace ended the set after 25 minutes.
An early lead for the Italian in the second set merely ignited Federer’s familiar metronomic brilliance to such an extent that he swept nine games in succession, breaking Lorenzi’s serve four times but not denting his determination to make as much a match of it as he could.
Late in the third set he began to cling on to his service games and managed to induce the occasional flubbed shot from The Great Man, something which may have concerned a perfectionist like Edberg. None more so than when Lorenzi, serving to stay in the match at 5-2 in the third set, faced – and saved – five match points leaving Federer to serve out for a place in the second round. And when match point six duly came along Federer provided the definitive answer with his ninth ace of the afternoon.
Ever the optimist, Lorenzi challenged the decision, only for the serve to be revealed on the giant screens as having landed on the line.
Federer was cautious about whether Edberg’s arrival has increased his appetite for the serve and volley game on grass. “Maybe it just reinforces the concept that it is possible, that I can actually do it. In 2001 when I made it to the quarters here I served and volleyed 80 percent on the first serve. It was normal. I even did some in 2003 when I first won here. Then every year I started doing less because the game started changing.
“Now it could be that little extra piece to the puzzle that could bring me through, to have that extra option. I think it is helpful.”
And should it prove the key to an eighth Wimbledon title Federer would become only the second player, after Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, ever to triumph that number of times at the same Grand Slam.
20:08It brings me no pleasure but it's time to bring the curtain down for another year. Seemed somehow appropriate to leave the last word to Roger Federer. Thanks a billion for reading. What a fortnight, what a final, fast forward to 2015 please...
20:03"I already have seven. It's not like I need another one. But it would have been awfully nice to have it. I think that's what the feeling was of the people, and I felt that... I know they love tennis. They love tennis after we're all gone."