Federer returns from the brink

  • Last Updated: June 29 2012, 23:46 BST

Roger Federer managed by the skin of his teeth to avoid following Rafael Nadal out of Wimbledon and then claimed it is great to see giant-killings back in the men's game.

Roger Federer: Victory the hard way

Second seed Nadal was the victim of one of the great Wimbledon upsets when he was beaten by unsung Czech Lukas Rosol, with the shockwaves of the result still being felt.

Six-time champion Federer had to survive his own bumpy ride on Centre Court - coming from two sets down to beat 29th seed Julien Benneteau - and afterwards the comparisons with his great rival's struggle were obvious.

And, when asked about Nadal, while keen to stress he was not revelling in the Spaniard's demise, Federer did confess to enjoying his defeat on behalf of the sport.

"This is not against Rafa, but it was nice to see it's still possible," Federer said.

"I think 15 years ago you had matches like this so much more often on the faster surfaces, that a guy could catch fire and just run through you.

"Today it's virtually impossible so it was just amazing to see that it was possible.

"Okay, he (Rosol) didn't play like that for five sets, but in the fifth it was just a joke. I was laughing because of his performance for 10 minutes after that.

"I couldn't believe that he pulled it off the way he did. Of course I do feel bad for Rafa because it's a tough loss."

While Nadal is already licking his wounds at home in Majorca, Federer was so nearly heading out himself.

Had Federer been beaten it would not have been as big a shock as Nadal's exit - Benneteau is a far more proven force than Rosol.

But considering Federer has not failed to pass the third round of a grand slam since 2004, it would still have been a startling result.

The Swiss player's record books were preserved for another tournament thanks to his comeback, although he was given some assistance by a visibly wilting opponent.

Benneteau surrendered in the third set and, although he took the fourth to a tie-break, meekly conceded the decider on his way to a 4-6 6-7 (7/3) 6-2 7-6 (8/6) 6-1 defeat.

"I think I brought some experience," Federer said of why he was able to recover so well.

"Having been 2-0 down before, especially here at Wimbledon and knowing how to handle the situation, when I broke at the start of the third set I knew the match was open.

"I knew I could not afford any more mistakes and I knew physically it would not be a problem.

"I started to play better and better as the match went on and I think that's what I said to myself as I sat down at two-love down. I had experience on my side.

"I had to hope that he would miss a few but you don't rely on that, you rely on your own strength.

"I missed a lot of opportunities but I also made some big plays when I had to and I tried to stay calm in the eye of the storm."

Having looked so dangerous in the first half of the match, displaying the fearlessness seen in Rosol last night, Benneteau offered little in the third and fifth sets.

He twice received treatment for cramp and the fifth set was one too many for the man from Bourg-en-Bresse who has only reached the fourth round of a grand slam three times in his 12-year career.

"I was cramping so it was tough for me to serve and also have the support to hit the ball," Benneteau said.

"But he played well. Mentally he is a rock. He is a champion and was prepared to go five sets."