Paris, June 1: Roger Federer is keeping the rallies short and finishing points early at the French Open—a combination he hopes will take him closer to a second Roland Garros title.
That has been evident in the Swiss star's three victories so far, and he has lost only 23 games in nine sets.
“I'm able to play quite aggressive at the moment. Don't know if I can keep that up,” Federer said Friday. “But the important thing is to keep the errors somewhat lower. ... It's got to be controlled aggression.”
He beat 30th-seeded Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in the third round, and next faces another Frenchman, No. 15 Gilles Simon, on Sunday.
“I'm happy because I have not used much of my energy so far,” said Federer, who won the French Open in 2009 and reached the semifinals last year. “Mentally, I'm OK. I'm quite confident. I can feel it, which is what you need to be if you want to go deep and have good results here at Roland Garros.”
Simon, who's 28, doesn't think he can take advantage of any fitness lapses on Federer's part.
“I have never seen him look tired; I don't know about you,” Simon said, jokingly, in response to a reporter's question.
Federer lost his first two career matches against Simon but has won their past three, including a 6-1, 6-2 victory at Rome in May.
“The last time I played him it wasn't so good, and I can't forget that that,” Simon said.
“It doesn't mean much to me,” was Federer's view of it. “He defeated me twice. It is always difficult to play against him.”
Federer is seeking a record 18th Grand Slam title, and his first since Wimbledon last year.
“I feel good,” Federer said. “I feel totally relaxed.”
The same could not be said of seven-time French Open champion Nadal on Friday.
Frustered by the scheduling of matches, he took the court at 11 a.m. and looked sluggish, coming from behind for the second match in a row to beat Slovakian Martin Klizan 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.
The Spaniard is aiming to become the first man to win eight titles at the same Grand Slam event, and faces 27th-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy on Saturday.
Entering the tournament, Nadal had lost only 14 sets in 53 matches at the French Open. But he has dropped the opening set in successive matches. Last year, he lost one in the entire tournament, and that was in the final to Novak Djokovic, who also plays Saturday.
The top-ranked Djokovic takes on 26th-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.
Dimitrov beat Djokovic in the second round of the Madrid Open, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (8), 6-3, and he also took a set off Nadal in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters in April.
Also Saturday, defending champion Maria Sharapova plays her third-round match against China's Zheng Jie.
Thankfully, for players and the spectators alike, the weather is set to improve, with a high of 68 degrees (20 C) and no rain forecast for Saturday.
Nadal criticized the tournament organizers for scheduling his match with Klizan late on Thursday when rain was predicted. The forecast proved correct, and the match was postponed a day, while Fognini enjoyed a day's rest having won his match earlier on Thursday.
“That's not fair,” Nadal said. “I was playing almost three hours on court, and my (next) opponent was watching the TV.”
Federer had some sympathy for Nadal, but only a little.
“I understand that he's frustrated,” Federer said. “But 50 percent of the players couldn't play their match.”