PARIS — One of Roger Federer’s 5-year-old twin daughters had her nose buried in a comic book. The other was glued to a mobile phone.
Shame, really, that they didn’t look up, because the tennis their father wove on the French Open center court verged on art.
The canvas for Federer’s strokes, the backhand as smooth as a cat’s paw and the forehand with crackle and pop, was Damir Dzumhur. The 23-year-old, the first Bosnian man to play at a major tournament, idolizes the 17-time Grand Slam champion. He had to pinch himself as they warmed up in a chilly breeze for their third-round match Friday.
“Strange feeling,” Dzumhur said later. “Like I’m dreaming.”
But Federer hitting this well is a nightmare, and he gave Dzumhur just 1 hour, 29 minutes of his time. The 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 win put Federer into the last 16 for the 11th consecutive year at the only major tournament he hasn’t won multiple times.
Although Maria Sharapova, by her own admittance, lacks Federer’s artistry, the defending women’s champion was the portrait of grit against 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur, winning 6-3, 6-4. That puts Sharapova into the fourth round for the fifth consecutive year.
The post-match on-court interview unfortunately focused on the five-time Grand Slam winner’s outfit — white shirt with blue stripes — as much as the solid tennis that got her over the obstacles of Stosur, a nagging cough and the wind that fiddled with Sharapova’s hair and ball toss.
“Coming to Paris, you want to be tres chic,” she said gamely.
Thumbnail photo via Susan Mullane/USA TODAY Sports Images