Paris: Roger Federer’s French Open campaign gained momentum as the Swiss second seed eased past France’s Julien Benneteau 6-3 6-4 7-5 to reach the fourth round in awe-inspiring fashion on Friday.
There was the usual array of running aerial forehands, gravity-defying drop shots and whipped backhands from the former world number one who booked a meeting with American Sam Querrey, the 18th seed, or French 15th seed Gilles Simon.
Benneteau, the 30th seed, broke in the first game to open a 2-0 lead but 17-times grand slam champion Federer kept his cool and turned the situation around in no time.
Benneteau, who has been struggling with a groin problem, bowed out on the first match point when he could not retrieve another powerful Federer forehand.
Federer left Court Philippe Chatrier on a standing ovation from the Paris crowd.
“You are so nice to me,” Federer said courtside with a smile. “I’m sorry for Julien, he looked diminished,” he added after a 91-minute tennis masterclass.
Benneteau started with an exquisite crosscourt forehand winner and took the first game on Federer’s serve but the Frenchman, who beat the Swiss in Rotterdam this year, could not sustain the pace.
At 3-3, Federer upped the tempo, winning 14 points in a row to snatch the opening set and he started the second in convincing style with some jaw-dropping shots.
The second game of the second set lasted just 45 seconds and Federer flicked a sublime backhand into Benneteau’s feet to break decisively in the ninth game.
Benneteau continued to fight in the third, but Federer, who won the title in Paris in 2009, was simply too good.
Meanwhile, an angry Rafael Nadal blasted French Open scheduling as a “joke” on Friday and claimed he was being treated unfairly.
The seven-time champion had his second round tie against Slovakia’s Martin Kliznan, which was the third match on the Court Suzanne Lenglen schedule on Thursday, cancelled as rain swamped Roland Garros.
He then played first up on Friday, completing a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win in almost three hours.
But he now faces having to play again on Saturday despite opponent Italian Fabio Fognini having finished his second round match on Thursday afternoon.
Nadal was furious that on a day when the weather forecast had been especially gloomy, he was scheduled to follow one men’s match and a women’s singles.
“The schedule was wrong, it was a bad decision,” said Nadal.
Thursday saw the worst weather interruptions of the week with barely five hours of action possible and with just over half the programme completed.
Nadal was further incensed when he was told that Fognini had been given an earlier start time on Court Three because he and his opponent Lukas Rosol had doubles to play.
Fognini and Rosol had gone on court just after noon on Thursday after Jelena Jankovic had needed just an hour to finish off her women’s singles match.
“Today I was playing three hours while my opponent was in the locker room watching TV,” added Nadal.
“I cannot play third when my opponent has played second.
“The excuse they gave me was that they had to play doubles, but that’s a joke.
“In that case I should sign up for doubles. Sorry, but you can play doubles next week.”
Nadal also said it was unfair that on days when the weather is poor that men, who play best-of-five sets in the Grand Slams, are made to play second to women, who still play best-of-three.
“It’s not right and I hope they realise their mistake.
“For the women, they always play best-of-three, it’s like any other tournament.
“But for us it’s completely different.”
Nadal is constantly wary of his schedule having missed seven months of action with a knee injury.
Since his return, he has won six titles in eight finals.
However, he has struggled this week in the cold, damp conditions, dropping the first set in both of his opening round matches.
“The only thing I can do is smile and be positive and be ready for tomorrow.”