(Reuters) – A grating wind swirled around Chatrier Court, clay dust stung the eyes and spectators huddled together in winter clothing, hardly tennis weather at all really in a city not lacking for Sunday afternoon attractions.
Then again, Roger Federer was playing, and as he has done all week, was playing majestically well, far too well in fact for the unfortunate Stanislas Wawrinka who found the experience so frustrating that he ended up trashing his racket.
The Swiss maestro handles fickle conditions better than any other player, able to make subtle adjustments to his swings and spins to use the elements rather than fight them.
Watching him at work on Sunday as he dispatched compatriot and close friend Wawrinka 6-3 7-6 6-2, the 28-year-old looked to have everything perfectly under control as he glided into the quarter-finals without the loss of a single set.
During last year’s stumbling run to his first French Open title he had already lost four sets by the quarter-finals stage and looked in danger of missing the golden opportunity created by the unexpected defeat of claycourt master Rafael Nadal.
With a last eight clash against Robin Soderling to come, a man he has a 12-0 record against including last year’s final, the world number one looks to be motoring toward a likely June 6 showdown with Rafael Nadal.
“I’m very happy, you know, because seeing the draw, what was it a week ago or more, it got my nerves going already thinking of who I was going to play,” the 16-times grand slam champion told reporters as he held court at Roland Garros.
“Now I played my first seed in the tournament, and a good friend, as well. I really knew the danger in this match. I was able to hang in there and turn it around in the breaker, but that’s the stuff you need to do.
“Last year I had to battle it out more over four or five sets. It also has advantages to do that as long as you come through. I’m playing really well at the moment, so I’m very happy where my game is at right now.”
Federer had too much guile for Wawrinka, who helped him win doubles gold at the Beijing Olympics.
Two breaks of serve secured the opening set but Federer did finds himself behind in the second as Wawrinka finally managed to express himself against the man whose shadow he has spent most of his career living in.
Wawrinka seemed poised to level the match when he led 4-3 and 40-15 on serve but Federer seized on some unforced errors, broke back and edged a tiebreak after Wawrinka again threw in a couple of errors at 5-5.
“I had taken the lead in the tiebreak. I was playing well, and I lost myself because of two points, two very stupid mistakes,” Wawrinka, who vented his rage by destroying his racket, told reporters. “I wanted to put pressure on Roger, and I didn’t do that.”
The third set was almost academic as Federer surged ahead, clinching victory after one hour 56 minutes when he smashed the ball away into an empty court.
“The second set for him kind of killed it,” Federer said. “He maybe didn’t believe as much in beating me anymore.”
Few of those who walk on court against him ever do.
(Editing by Miles Evans)