Wimbledon: Roger Federer rallies to knock out Julien Benneteau

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Once Djokovic had Stepanek’s serve-and-volley style measured, the passing winners and shoetop-high returns started flowing. Talking about falling behind in the second set, Stepanek said: “Not a good move from my side, because once you get these top guys going, then it’s tough to stop them.”

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.

“That’s a bit of getting used to. Indoor grass is not something we’re quite familiar with,” Federer said.

Here’s what happened: A drizzle delayed the start of play Monday, so tournament officials decided to shut the roof. By the time it was closed, and Djokovic headed out to play, the sun was out.

“I was a little bit surprised, when I saw sunshine, that the roof is closed,” Djokovic said. “Obviously, they’re relying on a forecast that I don’t think is very reliable here.”

Among those moving into the fourth round on outdoor courts: Denis Istomin, the first player from Uzbekistan to make it that far at any Grand Slam tournament, No. 18 Richard Gasquet, No. 26 Mikhail Youzhny and No. 31 Florian Mayer. Unseeded American Sam Querrey, still working his way back up the rankings after right elbow surgery a year ago, finished off a suspended second-round match, eliminating No. 21 Milos Raonic of Canada 6-7 (3), 7-6 (7), 7-6 (8), 6-4.

Seeded women who won included No. 1 Maria Sharapova, No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 8 Angelique Kerber and No. 15 Sabine Lisicki. Four-time major champion Kim Clijsters got through when No. 12 Vera Zvonareva, the 2010 Wimbledon runner-up, quit in the second set because of what she said was a respiratory infection, while 145th-ranked qualifier Camila Giorgi of Italy defeated No. 20 Nadia Petrova of Russia 6-3, 7-6 (6).

All rather ho-hum, really, when compared to Nadal’s loss and Federer’s near-loss.

Benneteau has zero tournament titles to Federer’s 74, and only once has made it to a Grand Slam quarterfinal (which he lost, by the way, at the 2006 French Open). Ranked 32nd, Benneteau was attempting to become the first man outside No. 30 to beat Federer at a major tournament in more than nine years.

“He proved he is great. The greatest,” Benneteau said. “Technically, physically, mentally, he was exceptional.”

They’ve known each other since they were kids on the junior circuit, and Federer credited Benneteau with having played “a wonderful match, from start to finish. … Could have — or should have — gotten me.”

Rosol did get Nadal and instantly became something of a curiosity: A player no one had ever heard of before Thursday was a big deal on Friday.

His buddy Stepanek likened the brash Rosol’s performance against Nadal to a gambler getting paid time after time at the roulette table.

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