Labouring Federer faces ‘lucky loser’ and fan from Belgium
Roger Federer continued to make heavy weather of a straightforward-looking draw at the French Open as he scraped past Nicolas Mahut last night, and next up for the 16-time grand slam champion is a player who thought his tournament was over a week ago.
Federer dropped a set for the second successive match and was then briefly broken back in the fourth set by Mahut before recovering to win 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5. The third seed’s fourth round opponent is 21-year-old Belgian David Goffin, whose dream run continued with a 7-6 (7/4), 7-5, 6-1 victory over Lukas Kubot.
Goffin, part of the Belgian Davis Cup team that beat Great Britain in April, lost in the final round of qualifying to Joao Sousa but was given a place in the main draw for the first time at a grand slam when Gael Monfils withdrew.
And he has certainly taken his chance, beating Radek Stepanek and veteran Arnaud Clement at the Frenchman’s final Roland Garros prior to yesterday’s win to earn a fairytale meeting with the player he idolises.
That will give the match a different feel for Federer, who said: “It’s not the first time it’s happened. It’s strange. It’s everything you can imagine. I’m happy to hear it, though.
“So it’s a big match obviously for him, and for me, too. It is a fourth round of a grand slam, after all, here in Paris where I know the Belgians have come and supported their players like Justine [Henin] and Kim [Clijsters] in the past.”
Federer is not unduly worried about his form and, with Mahut preferring the faster surfaces, felt the match was not a typical clay-court clash.
He said: “I knew he could play very well from the baseline, if he had time. It’s a bit tricky when you want to play a clay-court match but actually it would be better to play a hard-court match. So that’s tricky at times.
“I thought he did well. I struggled a little bit, but overall obviously I’m happy I came through.”
Goffin is the first lucky loser to reach the fourth round of a slam since his compatriot Dick Norman at Wimbledon 17 years ago, and he admitted it has not yet sunk in. He said: “I don’t realise – not yet. Maybe next week. Now I’m playing against Roger, and I can’t believe it. When I was young I had a lot of pictures in my bedroom of him.”
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