French Open: Federer d. Ungur
The sound of Roger Federer reverberated around Court Philippe Chatrier as French fans chanted "Roger! Roger!" in anticipation of impending victory. Name recognition wasn't the only difference in today's second-round match. The Grand Slam king was facing Adrian Ungur, an anonymous major debutant who surprised David Nalbandian in the opening round.
On the surface, Ungur's hopes of troubling Federer seemed as remote as the prospect of leaping over the Seine in a single bound. But the 92nd-ranked Romanian silenced the crowd and briefly stalled his superior opponent, saving two match points to squeeze out a third-set tiebreaker before Federer rapidly restored order. In his 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-3 triumph, Federer also passed a major milestone.
It was Federer's record 234th career Grand Slam match victory, breaking the mark of 233 he shared with Jimmy Connors, who was 39 years old when he made an inspired run to the U.S. Open semifinals. Despite hitting a few bumps on the red clay today, the 30-year-old Swiss is showing no signs of slowing down, and raised his record to 50-4 since falling to Novak Djokovic in the 2011 U.S. Open semifinals.
Contesting his 50th consecutive major, Federer looked intent on making quick work of the 5'10" clay-court specialist, cruising through the first set in 29 minutes. The third seed breezed through his service games for much of the match, and did not face a break point in building a two-set lead.
After three straight love holds from Federer, Ungur began to lose the nerves and find the range on his one-handed backhand. It's a versatile, useful, and sometimes imaginative shot in the tradition of one-handers wielded by compatriots Andrei Pavel, a 2002 French Open quarterfinalist, and Victor Hanescu, and when Ungur ripped a backhand winner up the line he had two set points at 5-4 in the third. But he failed to put successive returns into play, and Federer fired a forehand winner down the line, winning four straight points to hold from 15-40 down.
In the tiebreaker, Federer whipped a service winner wide for double match point at 6-4, only to miss the mark beyond the baseline on successive shots. When Federer found the net on the 17th shot of a later rally, Ungur snared the third set. Empowered, he earned two break points in the opening game, but Federer began to drive the ball down the line with authority; held for 1-0; broke on an Ungur double fault; and never looked back.
Federer's smooth movement, stress-free stroke production, and all-court acumen are one reason why he owns the record for most major wins; his problem-solving skills are another.
"I could see he could be dangerous particularly off the backhand side," Federer told ESPN2's Brad Gilbert after the match. "The geometry of the court he figured it out well. I still should have closed it out in third, but he hung in there and played a good match."
Next up for Federer is either Frenchman Nicolas Mahut or Slovak Martin Klizan.