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Federer Escapes Benneteau In Five-Set Comeback

Wimbledon, England

Federer© AFP/Getty ImagesRoger Federer overcame a two-set deficit to beat Julien Benneteau.

A day after World No. 2 Rafael Nadal went out in a shocking second-round exit, third-ranked Roger Federer nearly joined him in defeat on Friday. The six-time Wimbledon champion overcame a two-set deficit to edge Julien Benneteau 4-6, 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-6(6), 6-1 in the third round.

“It's always one of the best feelings coming back from two sets to love in a Grand Slam, and in particular here at Wimbledon where I have been able to do it before,” said Federer. “So I have been there, but not with the roof closed. That made the atmosphere very special out there.”

The comeback marked the second time Federer has rallied from a two-sets-to-love decifit this season, after clawing back against Juan Martin del Potro in the Roland Garros quarter-finals. He has pulled off the feat eight times in his career and is now within one victory of reaching 850 wins.

“Physically it was not going to be an issue at all. It was more mentally just knowing that I cannot afford any more mistakes,” Federer said. “That's the problem at two sets to love down, because I did have my chances, particularly in the second set, which was a tough set for me to lose.”

The Swiss remains in contention to claim the World No. 1 South African Airways ATP Ranking, needing to win the title to overtake current No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Federer is bidding to tie Pete Sampras’ record of seven trophies at The Championships and kept his Grand Slam streak of 32 straight quarter-final appearances alive.

Benneteau was within two points of victory on six occasions in the fourth set, including twice in the tie-break at 5-5 and 6-6. He went for his shots on each point, but was outdueled by Federer.

“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.”

Federer was patient in his opportunity to take a lead in the match for the first time since losing a break advantage in the opening set. He converted his fourth break to move ahead 3-1 in the final set, reeling off the final five games of the match to complete the comeback in three hours and 34 minutes.

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The 29th-seeded Benneteau was looking to upset the 16-time major champion for the second time, having defeated Federer on home soil at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Paris three years ago. His best Grand Slam performance is a quarter-final showing at Roland Garros in 2006.

Federer will play 2002 semi-finalist Xavier Malisse in the fourth round. The 31-year-old Belgian won back-to-back matches over Top 20 opposition for the first time in 12 months after he defeated No. 17 seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3. It was his 20th match victory at the All England Club and he improved to a 16-15 season record.

“It's been a long year this year,” said Malisse. “The beginning wasn't so good. It's tough. You keep fighting, but you're not winning the close matches. [In] the last three [or] four weeks, everything's coming together. It’s just nice to win a close match like this and in the third round of a [Grand] Slam, so it just means a lot. It's nice to be in the second week again.”

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