Wimbledon: Retirement gifts Roger Federer historic victory

Roger Federer’s quest for a record eighth Wimbledon crown could not have gotten off to a far easier start on Tuesday as the seven-time champion needed only 12 games to advance to the second round of the 2017 Wimbledon Championships as his opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov retired midway through the second set. The Swiss was cruising up a set and a break when his Ukrainian opponent was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury.

Overshadowed by the retirement was the fact that the win was Federer's 85th match win at Wimbledon, moving him one ahead of Jimmy Connors for the most match wins by any man in the Open Era at Wimbledon.

Federer comes out swinging

Federer wasted no time in putting the screws to Dolgopolov, as he swiftly erased a 30-0 deficit on the Ukrainian’s serve and holding a break point at 30-40 in the opening game of the match. Dolgopolov would save it with a big serve, but a huge forehand winner from Federer gave the third seed a second look and this time he would not waste it, drawing an error with a tightly-angled return of serve. The Swiss consolidated the break in the blink of an eye for a 2-0 lead.

Federer lines up a forehand during his first-round win. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Federer lines up a forehand during his first-round win. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

After the pair exchanged holds, Federer had a chance to break the set wide open when he held another break point, but Dolgopolov’s big serve bailed him out. In his next service game, the Ukrainian again was forced to save break points. Serving to stay in the set, Dolgopolov could hold off Federer no longer. The Ukrainian double faulted to give the Swiss double break/set point. He would save the first with a big serve, but netted a backhand to gift the opening set to the seven-time champion.

Dolgopolov forced to retire

During the changeover between sets, Dolgopolov received treatment on his right ankle from the trainer, but was able to start the second set. The Ukrainian didn’t appear too bothered at the start of the set, as he won two of the first three points and fought his way to deuce in Federer’s opening service game, although the Swiss was able to hold.

Federer would try to turn the tables quickly in the following game, taking a 0-30 lead on Dolgopolov’s serve, only for the Ukrainian to pull out some big shots to draw even. However, a missed forehand gave the Swiss a break point. Still showing little signs of struggling, Dolgopolov saved the break point with a big forehand winner. But back at deuce, he was drawn into the net and hit a volley long to give Federer a second chance and proceeded to double fault the break away.

Federer (left) and Dolgopolov shake hands as the Ukrainian retires. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Federer (left) and Dolgopolov shake hands as the Ukrainian retires. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

After Federer held easily in the following game, Dolgopolov would take to the court to attempt his next service game. After the Ukrainian took a 30-15 lead, Federer whipped out a brilliant drop shot that even a healthy player likely could not have reached. Dolgopolov took one step to chase it down, took one awkward step before slowing up and walking to the net for the handshake, retiring abruptly mid-game with a right ankle injury and allowing Federer into the second round with a 6-3, 3-0 victory.

By the numbers

Federer was immaculate for the brief 43 minutes he was required to play. The Swiss only played 36 points on his own serve in six service games, ten of which were aces. He won 78 percent of his first serve points and never faced a break point. He was strong in the rallies too, hitting 18 winners to a mere seven unforced errors. Dolgopolov, on the other hand, only had nine winners to 15 unforced errors and only won exactly 50 percent of his own service points (25 out of 50).

The only thing that went right for the Ukrainian was that he was able to attack the rare Federer second serves, winning five of nine second serve return points. A surprising statistic was Federer, whose tendency to attack the net has played a key role in his high level of play in his mid-30s, only attacked the net twice in the match.

Federer goes on to play Serbian Dusan Lajovic in the second round.