After great rival Rafa Nadal was bludgeoned out of the tournament by unknown Czech Lukas Rosol the previous evening, Wimbledon king Federer was two points away from following him through the exit door.
French journeyman Benneteau, a 30-year-old without a singles title to his name compared to Federer's 74, played astonishing tennis to lead by two sets under the Centre Court roof before the Swiss maestro fought back to win 4-6 6-7 6-2 7-6 6-1.
"It was a tough match, it was brutal," said 16-times major winner Federer, who has not lost before the fourth round of his last 33 grand slam tournaments since the 2004 French Open.
Julien Benneteau, the No. 29 seed, led Roger Federer, the six-time former titlist, 6-4, 7-6(3), with a nerve-free and faultless performance. Although Federer raised his game to take the third set 6-2, on six occasions in the fourth set, Benneteau came within two points of winning the third-round encounter, under a closed roof, on Centre Court.
In a pressurised tie-break, Benneteau rushed the net to save one set point at 5-6 to force Federer into a backhand error. At 6-6, the Frenchman hit a backhand long, before being forced into a forehand error on Federer’s set point opportunity.
"I did start to play better and better as the match went on, and that's kind of what I expected of myself once a set down or two sets to love down," said Federer. "That I guess comes with experience, but also experience alone is not going to win you the match. I had to push deep and extremely hard, and I'm very happy with the way things sort of happened at the end."
"Mentally he's a rock. He's two sets down and he doesn't show anything. After that, if your level is a little bit lower, right here, right now he takes the opportunity,” said Benneteau. “He has a capacity also to improve his game during the match… So you have to be focussed every point, every point against him. You cannot make any mistakes."
"He arrived to win this match in five sets, and he was not in control," Benneteau said. "At the end of the fourth set, his serve was incredible. Only first serve, only first serve, only first serve. He didn't make a lot of mistakes."
"I hit the ball very well today and I was in good shape. I knew that if I wanted to have one chance to win, I should take control of the rally and be aggressive and not let him play and direct the rally with his forehand."
Date: 30.06.2012, Source: Reuters and ATP