"Shhhh! Quiet! Genius at work", the flag of one of the Swiss supporters in Ahoy Rotterdam said. But in Friday’s quarter final of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament the genius appeared to be only human. He had an off day, like anyone else could have. Roger Federer produced a lot of unnecessary mistakes and Julien Bennetau benefited. The Frenchman defeated the regining champion with 6-3, 7-5 in only one hour and twenty minutes.
The audience in Ahoy Rotterdam was in shock afterwards. Last year Federer survived a similar match against Davydenko. In Friday’s second set it looked he was going to do the same. He came back from 4-1 to 5-5, but could not set up an escape like last year. Benneteau was just too strong. After a double fault by Federer in the twelfth game the Frenchman received two match points and after a backhand miss from the Swiss Benneteau could call himself the winner of the match.
On previous occasions Federer also had problems with Benneteau. Until Friday, their mutual record was 4-1 in favour of the seventeen-time Grand Slam winner. Benneteau’s only victory was at an indoor tournament three years ago in Paris-Bercy. Last year at Wimbledon, Federer was two sets down against the Frenchman, but made a great comeback and won.
But Benneteau has something in his game that Federer does not like. The 31-year-old Frenchman is tall, serves good, can accelerate with his forehand and backhand and now and then plays a surprising service volley. But he’s especially good in reading the service of the former number one of the world. He almost always chooses the correct side: in the first set he broke Federer three times. In the two previous matches the Swiss only gave away a handful of breakpoints.
It was the first time in 28 consecutive quarter finals Federer lost to a player from outside the top twenty. The last time was in 2008 in Rome, when he misjudged Radek Stepanek. For Benneteau it was his 200th victory in his career, although he never won a tournament. "This was without a doubt one of my greatest victories", he said afterwards.