And the prize goes to Roger Federer. With all of the Big Three in action at Wimbledon yesterday, it did look as if they had had a bit of a flutter on the side: who could be the first one back in the locker room?
Federer scooped the pot, taking just 74 minutes to marmalise Matteo Berrettini, the world No 20 from Italy, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. The young man from Rome had been billed as a potential threat to the Swiss, but he wasn’t and it was all over in a flash.
For most of the first set, Berrettini – the champion of Stuttgart, and a semi-finalist in Halle, so a man who likes to play on the grass – kept complaining that he could not see the ball.
He is not the first man to complain about that when they are playing Federer when the Swiss is in no mood to hang about.
The first set took just 17 minutes and while Berrettini was able to get a few more balls in play in the next two sets, it did not make any difference. Federer can be unplayable at the best of times but when a chap is nervous, inexperienced and has no idea what to do next against the living legend, it is not the best of times.
“I’m very happy,” Federer said. “I’ve really gotten into a great groove now and today I was really able to read his serve a little bit, get enough returns back in play, take control from the baseline so I thought it was a great match, a great tournament so far.”
What makes this performance all the more scary for those who stand in his way is that Federer does not think he is yet feeling at home at the All England Club. Many players – usually those who have lost – have complained that courts are playing slower this year, although no-one seems to know the reason why. As a result, not even Federer was getting too many free points from his serve: just five aces yesterday.
“It’s just amazing how little aces we see,” Federer mused. “He only hit a few and he’s serving on average over 130mph, but look, I’ll take it against the big servers.
“It’ll be just interesting to see against a stronger baseliner how it’s going to be with not getting so many aces from me as well. So I’m still just getting used to the conditions to some extent as well. But it was a great performance today, I thought it was a really good match for me.”
He will get his wish to test himself and the conditions in the quarter-finals tomorrow when he takes on Kei Nishikori, the 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Mikhail Kukushkin.
The two have played ten times, with Federer winning seven of those encounters. But in their one meeting on grass, in Halle five years ago, Federer won in straight sets.
Federer may need a little longer than 74 minutes to get through that one but if the boys in the locker room are thinking of another flutter, they will probably be putting their money on the rampant Swiss.