Originally created 07/04/06

Federer blazes by Berdych



WIMBLEDON, England - Wimbledon endured another wet afternoon Monday, this time because of perspiration. Centre Court spectators fanned themselves furiously in the relentless sunshine as a heat wave baked the lawn.

Roger Federer played three sets, barely needed a towel and departed wearing the stylish blazer he first unveiled last week.

Looking cool despite a temperature in the upper 80s, Federer breezed past Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. It was the 45th consecutive grass-court victory for Federer, extending his Open era record, and he needs three more for his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title.

Federer has reached the quarterfinals without losing a set, and he has been broken only once despite a draw that other players would find daunting.

"Going into the match, you know, you always feel like, 'This is going to be a test,'" he said. "After one set and a half, you start to feel like you're in control. So I have been tested, absolutely."

Potential trouble looms in the quarterfinals Wednesday, when the top-seeded Federer will get a Wimbledon rematch against No. 7-seeded Mario Ancic. The last time they met on grass was in the first round in 2002, and Ancic won in straight sets.

Federer hasn't lost at Wimbledon since then. And he beat the big-serving Croat as recently as June in the French Open quarterfinals.

Also on the horizon for Federer is a potential Sunday showdown against nemesis Rafael Nadal, of Spain, who beat Irakli Labadze 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3. Nadal earned his first quarterfinal berth at a Grand Slam event other than the French Open, where he has won the title the past two years and beat Federer in the final three weeks ago.

"If he made the final, that would be quite a surprise, I think, to many," Federer said.

It has been 40 years since a Spaniard won the Wimbledon men's title, and 26 years since a man won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back. The No. 2-seeded Nadal has become a force on grass faster than even he expected, beating his past two opponents, including Andre Agassi on Saturday, without facing a break point.

"It's very important for me to be in the quarterfinals," Nadal said. "I wasn't thinking that before the tournament. I am playing a very, very good tournament."

Sprinting across the grass to extend the rallies the same way he does on clay, Nadal came up with perhaps the shot of the day against Labadze. With his back to the net near the sideline during a frantic exchange, Nadal hit a half-volley backhand crosscourt for a winner.

"The guy's a class player," said 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt, who could meet Nadal in the semifinals. "He's a great player on any surface. It was never going to take him long before he won some matches on grass and then started beating good players like Andre Agassi and these kind of guys on the surface. So it doesn't surprise me that he's still in the tournament."

The No. 6-seeded Hewitt advanced by beating another Spaniard, No. 23 David Ferrer, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5. Hewitt's opponent in the quarterfinals will be Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis, who beat Andy Murray 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (2).

Nadal will play No. 22-seeded Jarkko Nieminen on Wednesday, and unseeded Jonas Bjorkman will face No. 14 Radek Stepanek.

After losing to Berdych in the 2004 Olympics, Federer has beaten the Czech three times in the past month, and the latest win was convincing.

"Especially on grass, I know exactly how to play," Federer said. "I'm pretty pleased to have had an easy day."