ROGER FEDERER’S quest to reclaim the Wimbledon title from Rafael Nadal gathered pace with a clinical straight-sets annihilation of Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
The six-time champion prevailed 6-2 6-3 6-2 on Centre Court and the second-round match had an air of inevitability.
It was cruel to watch at times as world number 55 Mannarino, who accounted for Irishman Conor Niland in the first round, was swept aside with breathtaking ease.
Incapable of making any real headway against Federer’s serve, the height of Mannarino’s ambition was avoiding being broken by the third seed – and that was often beyond him.
“It took me some time to get used to him but I played a really, really good match today,” said Federer.
“I hope I would still have won the second set even if he had come back.
“That was his chance when he was snapping at my heels. You don’t get many against top players.
“He did well, showed signs of good potential like many of the French players do have.”
The match was over in one hour and 22 minutes, to maintain Federer’s serene progress through Wimbledon, with Argentina’s David Nalbandian the next hurdle for the 29-year-old to clear.
“David is tough, he used to be my dark horse, I didn’t use to enjoy playing against him so often,” said Federer.
“I’ve been able to turn around the head-to-head but he’s still one of the great players from my time – Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin and Andy Roddick and so on.
“It’s nice to see him still around and I expect a really difficult match.”
Federer was immediately into his stride, winning the first two games in the blink of an eye.
The Swiss was 3-0 up after only eight minutes but encountered stiffer resistance in the fourth when Mannarino was finally able to trouble the scoreboard.
There was little wrong with Mannarino’s returning, but the accuracy and timing of his opponent was making him look very ordinary.
Federer had failed to drop a point on his serve as he raced to a commanding 5-2 lead and in the next game he broke once again, a forehand winner the pick of his shots.
Confronted with a near-faultless performance from the Swiss, Mannarino appeared powerless to halt what was turning into a procession.
When he tried to take command at the net during an 18-stroke rally he was undone by a passing shot of such pace and precision that he could only gaze on in admiration.
Another break arrived early in the second set, and Mannarino, playing in only his second Wimbledon, fired into the net as the onslaught continued.
Federer finally dropped a point on his own serve in the third game, although he immediately responded with his second ace to prove it was only the most fleeting of setbacks.
It was Mannarino’s turn to dazzle Centre Court in the fourth game as he saved break point with a string of classy shots, matching Federer blow for blow before delivering a volley at the net.
The pendulum swung in the ninth game when Mannarino, who was starting to make his presence felt, secured three break points.
A seemingly unstoppable cross-court rocket was scooped back by Mannarino, but Federer showed his class as he reeled off five successive points topped by a sumptuous backhand to clinch the set.
Federer was immediately on the front foot in the third set when he secured a break.
As in the latter stages of the second set it was no longer all one way, but while Mannarino was winning more points, Federer seemed capable of landing decisive blows at will.
Mannarino parried away a blistering shot at the net to lose his serve in the fifth game and Federer finished the sixth with an ace as his own serve became impenetrable once more.
Serving for the match, Federer was briefly delayed by a Mexican wave but a heartbeat later he was celebrating a victory completed with an acrobatic hanging smash.