Even Roger Federer needs advice, now and then
AP Tennis Writer
PARIS – Apparently, even Roger Federer, with his record 16 Grand Slam titles, was in need of some advice on a wet and windy Wednesday at the French Open.
Forced off court by two rain delays, and “pushed,” as he put it, by a player with a career record below .500, Federer turned to Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi for words of wisdom during the breaks. Told to be more aggressive early, then to use more drop shots late, Federer wound up with a 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Alejandro Falla in the second round.
“Those were good things he told me,” said the top-ranked Federer, the French Open’s defending champion for the first time. “Those little details make a crucial difference.”
The defending women’s champion, sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova, encountered quite a bit more trouble than Federer – she faced four match points in the second set against 41st-ranked Andrea Petkovic and was so distraught she whacked herself in the leg with her racket.
Petkovic made matters easier with unforced groundstroke errors on all four of those chances to win, though, and Kuznetsova eventually came all the way back for a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory – but not before wasting three match points of her own.
“I’m not really sure what happened,” Kuznetsova said. “I saw that she got tight.”
Also into the third round was No. 2 Venus Williams, who walloped one serve at 128 mph in a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Arantxa Parra Santonja, then effortlessly volleyed aside a series of questions about her lacy, black dress in the postmatch news conference.
It’s the same corset-like outfit – trimmed in bright red along the bodice – that Williams wore in her first-round match, and it’s garnered more attention than her play so far.
Other winners included No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 14 Flavia Pennetta, No. 15 Aravane Rezai, No. 19 Nadia Petrova and Williams’ next opponent, No. 26 Dominika Cibulkova, a semifinalist last year.
Falla, a left-hander ranked 70th who entered the day 11-13 at Grand Slams, 53-60 overall.
Here, then, is what passes for intrigue when Federer faces anyone other than Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros: Falla flicked a passing shot up the line to break serve and take a 6-5 lead in the first set.
Given a chance to serve out the set, Falla put a forehand into the net, sailed a backhand wide, watched Federer snap a volley winner, then sent a backhand long. And from 4-all in the tiebreaker, Federer took three points in a row, including an inside-out forehand winner that landed on a line to end a 12-stroke exchange.
“He really pushed me to come up with something special, which I couldn’t do in the first set, really,” said Federer, who hasn’t lost to anyone at the French Open other than Nadal since 2005. “I definitely got a little bit lucky to get out of that one.”
The man Federer beat in last year’s final, Robin Soderling, is looking strong again, having dropped a total of seven games through two matches in 2010.
His second rout came Wednesday against unseeded American Taylor Dent, a 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 victory that lasted a mere 71 minutes