Here is the news: Julien Benneteau beat Roger Federer in straight sets. Unfortunately, however, that was in Rotterdam three months ago. At Roland Garros 2013, it was the Swiss who shut out the Frenchman during their third-round meeting. For the seventh straight Slam event, Benneteau reached the last 32 but went no further, proving that he is nothing if not consistent. A glimmer of hope here and there flattered to deceive, but there was never any real sense of danger from the veteran No.30 seed. The 2009 French Open champion won 6-3, 6-4, 75 in 91 minutes.
Watched from the stands on Philippe Chatrier Court by his compatriot, the former world No.1 Amelie Mauresmo, Benneteau’s high point could not have arrived earlier when he broke Federer’s service in the opening game of the match. He must have been feeling pretty good – he was all set to hold to love until Federer almost visibly roused himself and decided it might be a good idea to call a halt. Benneteau did still hold but at 2-1 his defences crumbled. Federer was stepping up the pace, and although both were serving at a high percentage, the Swiss was converting far more first services into points, with way more winners. At 4-3 there was a moment when Benneteau appeared to be almost observing a rally from the back of the court, before skying a forehand for 40-0. Moments later a backhand down the line sealed the break. Barely a minute after that and the set was done.
Benneteau is 31 now but still improving, although in his long career he has never won a title. He had his best ever year-end in 2012 by finishing No.35 in the rankings despite fracturing his elbow and spraining his ankle at Monte Carlo and missing two months' play. This year however has been a different story - on the road to his 12th appearance here at Roland Garros, he had won only one match in four clay events. In the second set against Federer, he had a break point for 3-1 but could not take it. At 4-4 Federer easily outplayed him to notch up three break points, then scooped up a wonderful backhand for the conclusive break.
Benneteau, one of a record six French men seeded in the draw, dug in during the third. But with the set on service at 4-5, Federer won the last ten points of the match.
"I'm happy because I have not used much of my energy so far," said Federer. "I think I can go deep in the tournament. I feel totally relaxed. Mentally I'm okay. I'm quite confident. I can feel it, which is what you need if you want good results at Roland Garros."