By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) – It was never likely that tennis’s grand old master Roger Federer would be taken by surprise when serve-volleyer Mischa Zverev came at him with a blast from Wimbledon’s past.
Zverev was billed as an intriguing conundrum for Federer and a potential third-round banana skin with his old-school style harking back to a bygone era of the grasscourt game.
Yet, unfortunately for the German, the seven times champion has a flair for such puzzles and, after a testing opening set, swept home 7-6(3) 6-4 6-4 in Saturday’s Centre Court clash.
That saw Federer safely into the second week at the All England Club for the 15th time and gave him a few days to recover from a head cold that has been bothering him before he takes on Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the last 16 on Monday.
“I had more problems with my cold than my opponents,” he said after a third successive match without dropping a set.
Perhaps the only positive for Zverev was that it was not as bad as the first time he played Federer on grass four years ago when he lost without winning a game.
The result on Saturday, however, never really looked in doubt for Federer, who is seeking a record eighth Wimbledon men’s singles title.
Zverev’s relentless charging of the net posed few issues for third seed Federer, who stayed on course for a record eighth Wimbledon title by using the German as a target and relentlessly picking him off.
Federer hit 61 winners to Zverev’s 20, while the German won only 55 percent of points at the net, usually a prime position of strength.
With Federer seeking to become the oldest player to win Wimbledon in the professional era, this was the sort of stress-free workout he would have enjoyed.
He did, however, have a minor wobble in the first set that sent it to a tiebreak.
Having broken for a 3-1 lead, Federer failed to pick a volley off his shoelaces to hand Zverev a break point that the German took when the Swiss shanked a forehand.
Any frustration Federer may have felt was channelled in a clinical tiebreak, which he won without dropping a point on his serve.
From then on it was easy going for Federer, who did not face a break point in the remainder of the encounter.
He broke for a 2-1 lead in the second set with a clinical forehand put-away and again at the same point in the third, when 27th-seeded Zverev double faulted.
Having not been pushed to his brilliant best, Federer at least finished with a flourish, wrapping up the match after an hour and 49 minutes with his 13th ace.
Thirteenth seed Dimitrov, now aged 26, may provide a sterner challenge, although he is another player who has never beaten Federer in five previous efforts.
“Grigor is stronger every time I play him, he’s at the perfect age right now, understands his game and is physically strong… I’m ready for a tough one but another exciting match because he’s a great shot player.”
(Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Ken Ferris)