PARIS — In what seemed like a flash, and in what surely felt like a flash of pain for his opponent, Roger Federer went from vulnerable to commanding.
It was that quick.
Federer lost a second-set tiebreaker Friday to Dmitry Tursunov, and that surely did not bode well for the 17-time Grand Slam champion. Then Tursunov felt a split second of discomfort in his left hip.
And that was it.
Federer was back on track at the French Open, on his way to a 7-5, 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-4 victory and into the second week of a major tournament yet again.
“Everything that was out of his control, like moving defense, that’s when it got difficult,” said Federer, who advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros for the 10th straight year. “Clearly, on the clay, it’s difficult to hit three great shots in a row. So I tried to extend the rallies, but serve nice and stay aggressive throughout. And I think that was a bit too much for his hip, or whatever it was.”
It was something of an escape for Federer, who lost a set for the first time at this year’s tournament. Then again, Novak Djokovic also lost a set Friday before advancing with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4 win over 25th-seeded Marin Cilic.
With eight-time champion Rafael Nadal and 2013 finalist David Ferrer perfect through their opening two matches, the pressure is on the others to keep their level high.
“It wasn’t easy because once you start being passive, you lose kind of the confidence to step in,” Djokovic said of his win. “That’s what happened maybe in the end of the third and a little bit of the fourth.”
Of course, that’s nothing compared to the women’s tournament, where third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska followed defending champion Serena Williams and Li Na out of the tournament.
That leaves Simona Halep, who plays Saturday, as the highest-seeded player in the draw at No. 4. It also leaves 2012 French Open champion Maria Sharapova as the favorite after her 6-0, 6-0 rout Friday.
The woman who beat Williams, Garbine Muguruza of Spain, also advanced to the fourth round.
Federer and Djokovic, though, were expected to win, and they did. Tursunov, with an 0-4 record against Federer heading into the match, wasn’t, and he didn’t.
“Overall, the first two sets ... I felt that it was a fairly even battle out there,” said Tursunov, who was broken only once in the first two sets. “It’s hard for me to predict, but definitely playing on one leg is not going to make things easier. Tough luck for me, but hopefully I’ll get him somewhere else.”
It’s still not completely clear what happened to the 31st-seeded Tursunov, but it most certainly led to a bit of a meltdown a few minutes later.
“It was right after the changeover of the second set,” he said. “We sat down and then got up and then he was serving, and then right after the first serve was kind of like, ‘Something is not right.’”
Federer broke Tursunov in that opening game, and led 2-1 at the first changeover. Tursunov called for a trainer, and started to lose his cool. He screamed at the chair umpire, yelling “start using your brain,” while angrily mixing his personal purple drink. A medical trainer came out and chatted with the Russian while he continued fiddling with the plastic bottle and a funnel.
Finally, Tursunov left the court and headed for a training room in the bowels of Court Philippe Chatrier. Meanwhile, out on the red clay of the main stadium, Federer was practicing his serves, drawing some boisterous shouts of “Ole” from the waiting crowd.
When Tursunov finally returned, the match was in Federer’s hands.
“Where I felt it the most was that he struggled to return the serve, the reaction, left and right was maybe missing a little bit,” Federer said. “But in terms of playing aggressive tennis, that he was able to do normally, in my opinion.”
The problem for Tursunov, however, was that aggressive tennis wasn’t enough on this day.
“I like how I’m playing against him. Hoping to improve,” Tursunov said, again thinking ahead to a possible sixth meeting. “Hoping to give him more difficulties for the next couple years, hopefully.”