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Wimbledon: Federer in fine fettle for battle to win back crown

By Matt Gatward

The disappearance of Djokovic has got those still standing speaking of a wide open men's draw but they may be tickling that verdict slightly if they'd watched Roger Federer dismantle Steve Johnson inside 97 minutes on Centre Court.

Federer mopped up the first two 6-2, 6-3, inside an hour, barely giving Johnson a sniff.

The Swiss then threw the 26-year-old a bone early in the third set, dropping his serve for the one and only time but broke back immediately and broke again later to take it 7-5.

Johnson is part of the coming US brigade, his fellow Statesider Sam Querry is his doubles partner but they were knocked out on Saturday, Querry having had other quarry on his mind at the weekend as he beat Djokovic in the singles.

For Johnson he is up at No. 29 in the world, his highest ever position in the rankings. This was the deepest he had been in a Grand Slam and was on a fine run having won the Nottingham Open prior to heading down to SW19. He had won only one match in his three previous visits here but had beaten Malek Jaziri, Jeremy Chardy and Grigor Dimitrov this year.

Federer, world No. 3, though, showed there is a chasm of difference between the good and the greatest.

"I'm very happy with how I played," Federer, who faces Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals tomorrow, said with a splash of understatement. "It wasn't as easy as it looked."

Federer, whose win means he has joined Martina Navratilova at the top of the tree on 306 Grand Slam wins, mixed up that lovely one-handed whipped backhand with ferocious forehands and then displayed the deftest of touches around the net with stop-volleys and drop shots aplenty - one backhand return drop shot off a Johnson second serve defied belief.

It had looked like 2016 might be the year Old Father Time finally caught up with the 34-year-old Federer: he had the first operation of his career back in February when he had his knee tidied up and he was forced to sit out the French Open due to a back problem, his first missed Grand Slam since the 1999 US Open.

But he has looked swashbuckling in SW19 so far and is yet to drop a set. His tournament is unfolding even better than he could have imagined, and with Djokovic out of the road - the Serb has beaten Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals - he must have high hopes of winning his first Slam since taking the 2012 Wimbledon crown.

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