Roger Federer came to the French Open a little bit under the radar, more than happy to let the world’s focus land squarely on someone else for a while.
The way the 16-time Grand Slam champion is playing at Roland Garros, though, that’s quickly starting to change — especially with five-time champion Rafael Nadal and second-seeded Novak Djokovic already dropping sets in the early rounds.
“People expected me to hopefully win or to prove myself here in Paris over many, many years, and this year I don’t have to do that because I have already won this tournament before,” the 2009 champion said after beating Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in the third round.
“And now the expectations are sky-high for Novak and Rafa, because he’s the defending champion. That leaves me a bit out of the pressure situation, which is not a bad thing for me.”
On the women’s side, the draw was thrown into further disarray when top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark was beaten by No. 28 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-3.
Djokovic took to the court late on Friday, putting his perfect season and 41-match winning streak on the line. But his match against Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina was suspended because of darkness after the pair split the first two sets, each winning 6-3.
They will try to finish their match on Saturday, while Nadal and 2009 and ‘10 finalist Robin Soderling of Sweden are scheduled to play in the third round. Maria Sharapova is also set to get on court.
Federer came to the French Open seeded third, making it the first time he has been outside the top two at a Grand Slam tournament since 2003. He also entered the tournament without being the reigning champion of at least one of the majors for the first time since he won Wimbledon that year (2003).
None of that seems to be affecting him at this year’s tournament, though.
“I’m at peace with my game right now. I’m physically fine,” Federer said. “I mean, it’s still early in the tournament, and also not to be overrated, but at the same time it’s really nice to be moving in the draw so well, so quickly, really.”
Federer will next have to face his Swiss Davis Cup teammate, Stanislas Wawrinka, who rallied to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 4-6, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-3.
“Had it been in the first round, it would have been different, but this is the fourth round and playing Stan in the fourth round would make things more difficult,” Federer said before his friend’s match had ended.
Wozniacki won’t get a chance to even see the fourth round this year. She will have to wait until Wimbledon to get another chance to win her first Grand Slam title.
“Sometimes it’s like this in the game, and you cannot do anything,” Wozniacki said. “Right now I can’t do anything about the loss other than just get back on the practice court and improve and be better for next time.”
Wozniacki’s loss came a day after second-seeded Kim Clijsters was knocked out of the tournament, making it the first time in the Open era that the top two seeded women failed to make the round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament.
Sam Stosur, last year’s French Open runner-up, also lost on Friday. The eighth-seeded Australian was beaten by Gisela Dulko of Argentina 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
For Dulko, she was celebrating more than just the victory on Court Philippe Chatrier. On Thursday, her brother became the father of twins, one boy and one girl.
“For Myla and Teo. It was worth it. I love them,” the 26-year-old Dulko wrote in Spanish on a towel she held up after her victory.
Keywords: French Open 2011