London: Eight-time champion Roger Federer eased into the third round of Wimbledon on on Thursday, beating British wild card Jay Clarke 6-1, 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 to equal American legend Jimmy Connors’ record of 17 appearances in the last 32.
“I struggled to take care of business a bit from the baseline,” said 37-year-old Federer who has now reached the third round at the Slams for the 70th time.
“Thankfully I played a pretty good breaker, I had some help from him as he gave me a couple of unforced errors.”
Federer’s half of the draw lost two of the potentially more awkward customers in big serving duo John Isner and Marin Cilic.
Ninth-seeded Isner, who played in the epic semifinal last year with Kevin Anderson which lasted over six hours, fell in five sets to unseeded Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in just over three hours of play.
Cilic, the 13th seed and finalist in 2017, lost in straight sets to Portugal’s Joao Sousa, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
In the women’s division, Angelique Kerber’s defence of her singles title came to an early end being knocked out in the second round by lucky loser Lauren Davis 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 on Thursday.
The 31-year-old German, who came into the tournament in form having reached the final at Eastbourne, made her earliest exit since losing in the same round in 2013.
Davis has now equalled her best previous performance at Wimbledon in reaching the third round where she will play Spanish 30th seed Carla Suarez Navarro for a place in the last 16.
Meanwhile, Ashleigh Barty’s bid to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year stayed on track with a 6-1, 6-3 second round victory over Belgium’s Alison van Uytvanck.
The 23-year-old Australian world number one will play British wild card Harriet Dart for a place in the last 16.
Barty said she would not be concerned by taking on a home hope in front of a partisan crowd.
“I wouldn’t be playing a British crowd; I’m playing against Harriet,” said Barty. “Yes, she’ll get more support being in Britain, as I would if we were in Australia. It’s no different.” Barty said the most pleasure she has had in her new status is when she speaks to her niece back in Australia.“Over and over she tells me you can go to infinity and beyond,” sad Barty.
Dart, for her part, could not contain her excitement at playing the world number one.
“Super exciting,” she said. “A great opportunity for me. I have nothing to lose. I actually met her a few weeks ago at an LTA schools visit. Lovely girl, great champion.”
However, Dart, ranked 182 in the world, had to be reassured about the Australian’s recent exploits. “She won the French Open, and she won Birmingham, right?”
Also easing through was 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens who took the first eight games against her Chinese opponent Wang Yafan before winning 6-0, 6-2.
The in-form Stephens, seeded nine, will play British 19th seed and French Open semifinalist Johanna Konta in the next round.
Bopanna, Cuevas ousted
Divij Sharan was the lone Indian surviving in the men’s doubles event after Rohan Boanna and his partner Pablo Cuevas exited with an opening-round defeat against Marcus Daniell and Wesley Koolhof.
Bopanna and his partner from Uruguay saved two match points in the fourth set tie-break but lost 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-7(7) after two hours and 32 minutes.
Meanwhile, Sharan and Marcelo Demoliner knocked out the 13th seeds and reigning French Open champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies, 7-5, 6-4, 7-5.