Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
For a chap on the receiving end of the fastest serve anywhere on the planet in 2015, Roger Federer was pretty terrifying himself in the service department during his third-round encounter against Sam Groth.
Early in the match, the Australian world No.69 sent down a howitzer just 1mph shy of Taylor Dent’s all-time Wimbledon record delivery of 148mph (Groth’s world record stands as the apparent, but not actual, misprint of 163mph). That weapon propelled him into the last 32 here for the first time, but the absence of any Plan B found him wanting against the seven-time champion.
Groth always worked hard, but as he could not muster a single break point against Federer’s serve, his only hope of a set was to take a tie-break, which he commendably did – only for the Swiss to move up a gear and wrap up the win 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2 in two hours and 16 minutes. He will face Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the quarter-finals.
“He [Groth] can stay in the match just by serving,” said Federer. “But the only thing I really had to change was my returning. The service games I can control myself: what to do on second serves, what to do on first serves. That’s the biggest effort for me when I play a big-server – understanding those patterns. I also needed to focus on my own serve and I did that well.”
It’s a curious business being Federer in a post-match press conference. After this third-round win, he was asked 11 questions in English, only the last of which related to his match. It was indicative, perhaps, of the sense that losing the third set was a mere irritant. Groth could not sustain any tactical attack for long enough to threaten the No.2 seed. That said, he had more encouragement to take from this match on the biggest stage of all than his only previous meeting with Federer in the second round of last year’s US Open, when the Swiss completed all necessary business in three sets.
With three Australians in the third round here for the first time since 2004, Groth’s name was new to many at courtside. Now 27, he has always been a late bloomer, having started playing tennis as an old man aged 10, and only finally choosing over his beloved Australian Rules football six years after that.
He knows what he’s doing on this surface – he beat the world No.14 Feliciano Lopez on the Stuttgart grass last month, and then reached a career-high No.66 by warming up for Wimbledon with the Manchester Challenger title. He earned a good win over the No.31 seed Jack Sock in the first round and then saw off his compatriot James Duckworth to find himself opposite a legend.
I'm not coming into Wimbledon being not quite sure about my game. Three matches and no breaks faced - it's great
He announced himself in the first game against Federer with a 142mph delivery, before sending down his best of the day (the fastest in the world this year, although 16mph short of his record). But in no time Federer’s touch and athleticism saw Groth fending off break points, and he was breached for 2-3 by his own volley error.
In the second set he became more anxious as his error count rose and his opponent’s returns became silkier; moreover, Federer lost just one point on his first serve in the opening two sets. Groth knew hope lay in reaching a tie-break, and when the chance came he took it. But he was allowed no more, and afterwards Federer emphasised again what a difference he felt the extra week’s preparation for The Championships has made to his tennis.
“I’m not coming into Wimbledon being not quite sure about my game,” he said. “Three matches and no breaks faced – it’s great. I couldn’t do it in Halle, which was more all over the place in the beginning. I’m in a more solid place. It’s going to help a lot of players improve on grass.”
Wait… so in his vintage years Federer came to Wimbledon not quite sure about his game? Apparently so. Those seven titles? Just a fluke.