LONDON: When Roger Federer found himself down two sets and staring at an early exit from Wimbledon, the crowd at Centre Court thought back to the stunning upset that took place there a day earlier and wondered if it was witnessing a repeat.
The six-time Wimbledon champion Federer overcame a two-set hole for the eighth-time, beating Julien Benneteau of France 4-6, 6-7 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-1 on Friday in the third round. With the comeback, he narrowly avoided following Nadal out of Wimbledon after the Spanish two-time winner was stunned by 100th-ranked Lukas Rosol on Thursday.
Just like he had against 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the French Open quarterfinals 3½ weeks ago, Federer found a way to wrest back the initiative and fight back.
Like Federer and Nadal, Novak Djokovic fell behind against someone he was expected to beat easily: The Serb ceded the first set, getting broken at love by No 28 Czech Radek Stepanek, Rosol's Davis Cup teammate. But quick as can be, Djokovic turned things around, breaking Stepanek to begin each of the next three sets for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory that moved him closer to a semifinal showdown against Federer.
Once Djokovic had Stepanek's serve-and-volley style measured, the passing winners and shoetop-high returns started flowing. Benneteau might have sounded the same lament. For quite a lengthy stretch, he played positively Rosol-esque tennis: hard serves and stinging groundstrokes directed at lines. No fear.
But Federer found an opening and barged through, saved in particular by this: He won 63 of the 80 points he served over the last three sets. Both Djokovic — who takes on unseeded Viktor Troicki in an all-Serbian matchup Monday — and Federer — who begins Week 2 by meeting 2002 Wimbledon semifinalist Xavier Malisse — found it odd to be playing with Centre Court's retractable roof closed as a precaution, despite a blue sky overhead.
American qualifier Brian Baker's career renaissance is headed for the fourth round. The 27-year-old Baker extended his remarkable comeback after a half-dozen years away from the tennis tour, beating Benoit Paire of France 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 on Saturday.
In the women's draw, Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan has achieved a so-called "Golden Set" against 10th-seeded Sara Errani at Wimbledon, winning the first set 6-0 without dropping a single point in their third-round match. Recent French Open champions Ana Ivanovic and Francesca Schiavone reached the fourth round at Wimbledon with victories Saturday. Ivanovic had a much tougher time. The 14th-seeded Ivanovic, whose only Grand Slam title came in Paris in 2008, came back from a set down to beat 22nd-seeded Julia Goerges 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Playing her usual varied and attacking style, the 24th-seeded Schiavone defeated 31st-ranked Klara Zakopalova 6-0, 6-4 in 68 minutes. Defending champion Petra Kvitova cruised into the fourth round of Wimbledon on Saturday, routing Varvara Lepchenko of the United States 6-1, 6-0 in less than hour.
Meanwhile, a subdued Serena Williams recovered from a sluggish start to beat China's Zheng Jie 6-7 6-2 9-7 in a marathon third-round match. The American four-time Wimbledon champion struggled to cope with the windy conditions and Zheng, seeded 25th, served consistently throughout the first set before winning it 7-5 in the tiebreak.
The sixth-seeded Williams finally broke Zheng, Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2008, in the fifth game of the second set and she did so again in the seventh on the way to levelling the match.
Williams, 30, recovered from 0-40 down to hold serve in the fourth game of the third set and she made the decisive break in the 15th game before converting her third match point to set up a last-16 clash with Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan.