Gilles Muller could well be Roger Federer’s lucky charm in his bid to become the first man to claim eight Wimbledon crowns.
Every time the Swiss great has played the Luxembourger lefty he has settled the ledger without the loss of a set. Each time – Indian Wells (2005), Bangkok (2005) and the US Open (2008) – he has gone on to win the title.
And after Thursday’s clinical straight-sets dismissal of his fellow over-30s stablemate – putting the ghosts of a shock second-round boilover last year behind him – the seven-time Wimbledon champion was sounding that ominous grass-court warning once more.
The Muller effect could well be shaping as a good omen.
“Yeah, we'll see about that. I don’t know, I’m speechless,” Federer chuckled. “I'm happy to hear that. I'm very happy with the match today, because I knew it could have been difficult. And we saw signs of it I think midway through the second set when I think for four straight games I didn't see much on his serve.”
The No.4 seed finished with 25 aces, 44 winners and only five unforced errors in the 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 result; the first speedy half played under heavy grey skies and a swirling cold breeze before rain forced the roof’s closure for the concluding speedy half.
“Actually the rain delay kind of changed things around. I came out and I was a bit more clear of how I was going to return him,” he said. “Against a player like this you're more dependent on the serve and return and first couple of shots, so [closing the roof] doesn't change much against a player like him.”
Federer arrived to contest his most successful major with a seventh Halle title on the grass under his belt, while former world No.42 Muller was looking to emulate his upset of then-No.4 seed Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon nine years ago. An elbow injury ruled him out for much of 2013 meaning he had already won through three round of qualifying before his first-round win over Julien Benneteau.
With Federer a set up and games on serve at 4-3 in the second, both players agreed to stop as the first few spits of a customary Wimbledon rain interruption began to fall.
When it was agreed to close the roof, the pair returned from the locker-rooms chatting. It could well have been a discussion about their children. Federer now has four in his brood, Muller two. Both, as it turns out, have a son named Lenny, both born on 6 May.
The similarities off-court were where it ended. When it came to business on Thursday, Federer was in a class of his own.
Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, a pair of sloppy errors on game points cost the Luxembourger dearly. The Swiss brought up set point, ripping a backhand pass crosscourt. Muller correctly challenged the out call on his half-volley to replay the point, but Federer made no mistake of it at second asking, taking it when the lefy’s slice backhand found the tape 7-5.
It was as close as Muller would get, with Federer breaking early in the third on his way to a third-round meeting with either No.30 seed Marcel Granollers or Santiago Giraldo. Their tussle was suspended in the fifth set due to rain.
Three aces from Federer and a forehand on the run wide from Muller sealed the match after just one hour and 34 minutes
There’s some Swiss efficiency for you.
The Muller effect will have to carry the father of four through five more matches. Some omen that would be.
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...
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