Federer approaching Hewitt with caution

Roger Federer targets a record sixth consecutive title but he expects the easy ride to end when he faces former champion Lleyton Hewitt on Monday.

updated: July 02, 2008 17:42 IST
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Roger Federer has breezed through three rounds at Wimbledon as he targets a record sixth consecutive title but he expects the easy ride to end when he faces former champion Lleyton Hewitt on Monday.

Federer and the Australian, who meet for a place in the quarter-finals, have had plenty of time to study each other's game - they first played each other when they were 15.

"It's always a challenge playing Lleyton. He's a great player, a guy I really enjoy watching as well. He's a great competitor. We go back a long time," the 26-year-old Swiss said.

"Especially here and with him being the former number one and the former champion, I think it's an intriguing match for both of us."

While Federer's biggest concern in his early matches has been keeping his cream and gold 1920s-style cardigan clean, Hewitt is contending with a hip injury that will soon require surgery and has failed to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam since the 2006 US Open.

No matter, says Federer, because as the only other former champion here Hewitt has the knowledge and the mental strength to pose a genuine danger.

"He knows what it takes to win slams. I think Lleyton Hewitt definitely believes very strongly in his chances," Federer said.

Seeing the relaxed demeanour of Federer, it is hard to recall that just three weeks ago he suffered the worst defeat of his career in the French Open final to Rafael Nadal, whom he could meet in the final here.

In between dismissing Dominik Hrbaty, Robin Soderling and Marc Gicquel without losing a set, Federer has even found time to visit London Zoo with US pop star Gwen Stefani and her British rocker husband Gavin Rossdale, a keen tennis player.

"It's just very easy here," he said. "We stay in a house, we don't stay in a hotel. I think it's the only tournament actually throughout the year I do that," Federer said.

"I just can't beat the traffic every day, maybe get stuck in traffic for two hours. I'm not in the mood for that."

Having wrapped up his 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Gicquel early on Friday, Federer was planning to spend the weekend with some light practice and then sightseeing in London with his long-term girlfriend, former top 50 player Mirka Vavrinec.

Federer leads Hewitt 13-7 in their career meetings, but the Australian has lost the last 11 and has not beaten the Swiss for five years.

Nevertheless, Hewitt has looked impressive in the early stages and can't wait to test himself against a player who succeeded him as Wimbledon champion in 2003 and has been impossible to dislodge ever since.

"This is what you play for. There's no doubt about it. Especially in my situation, these are the matches I enjoy. It's good to get out there and play on Centre Court, play against the best player in the world," Hewitt said.

And he is keen to play down the injury.

"You don't show when you're hurt," said the gritty former world number one. "Very rarely do I give away signs if I'm hurting at all."