King Roger puts on a show Down Under to welcome Britain’s Prince William to the tennis world

By John Pye, AP
Thursday, January 21, 2010

Royal gathering: British prince and king of tennis

MELBOURNE, Australia — The king of tennis met the British prince.

Roger Federer had just dismissed another of his subjects — a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Romania’s Victor Hanescu at the Australian Open — before greeting Prince William.

Federer is no stranger to royalty, having collected the Wimbledon trophy six times on London’s grass courts. But this was his first meeting with William, second in line to the British throne.

After Federer dispatched Hanescu in 99 minutes on Thursday, on-court interviewer Jim Courier invited the top-ranked Swiss to acknowledge the rare visit to Melbourne by a high-ranking royal.

“Your Royal Highness, welcome to the world of tennis,” Federer said. “Thanks for coming.”

Prince William duly blushed and waved. The pair shook hands — five wins before Federer usually mixes with royalty on the final Sunday of a major.

“Chit-chat? no,” Federer said. “English breakfast tea? No, not yet.”

“Of course, where he comes from, you know, he knows tennis. And Wimbledon’s big,” Federer added. “So for me it was very a big honor that he came to watch me. He said he was happy that I played a little bit longer because the match could have ended even shorter.”

Federer went back to his hotel and now awaits a third-round match against No. 31-ranked Albert Montanes of Spain. The prince resumed his duties on his brief tour to New Zealand and Australia.

“I think he’s had a very busy schedule the last few days,” Federer said. “He shook a lot of hands, and I knew mine was one more. From what I’ve heard, I think he met Serena and myself, and came to watch my match.”

The Williams sisters moved a step closer to a semifinal meeting with straight-set wins in back-to-back matches at Hisense Arena, the second covered court.

Venus went first and beat Sybille Bammer 6-2, 7-5, already improving on a 2009 campaign that ended in a second-round loss to Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.

Serena defeated Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1 to set up a match with Navarro in the third round. Williams is trying to break a trend: She has won the Australian title each odd-numbered year since 2003, when she beat her sister in the final.

“I feel if I play well, I can beat anybody,” said Serena, who is planning some research on Suarez Navarro. “I know she took out Venus around this time last year, if I’m not mistaken.

“I would hate to see it become a habit for her, taking out a sister this time every year. So I have to be ready. Yeah, definitely will talk to (Venus) and see what goes next.”

U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark was among the other women advancing. She’ll meet No. 29 Shahar Peer of Israel in the next round. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 Australian Open finalist and French Open champion, lost to Argentina’s Gisela Dulko.

No. 2 Dinara Safina, who lost last year’s final at Melbourne Park, plays Friday, as do Belgian comeback players Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin.

Defending men’s champion Nadal has a night match against Philipp Kohschreiber. No. 5 Andy Murray and No. 7 Andy Roddick play during the day.

Most of the leading men in the top half the draw progressed in straight sets. Novak Djokovic, the 2008 champion, had a slow start in his 3-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 win over Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland.

No. 9 Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist last year, advanced 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Ivan Sergeyev of Ukraine, and 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win over American Taylor Dent.

Sixth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko had a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 win over Ukraine qualifier Illya Marchenko, extending his winning streak to 11, including victories over Federer and Nadal in the 2009 World Tour Final in London and in Doha this month.

Marcos Baghdatis, the 2006 finalist, held on to beat No. 17 David Ferrer 4-6, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-1 to set up a third-round match against former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, who beat American Donald Young 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-1.

Hewitt won their last match at Melbourne Park, in the same round in 2008, which didn’t start until just before midnight and finished at 4:34 a.m. That’s a time Hewitt and Federer, both dads, might already be familiar with.

Federer learned at last year’s Australian Open that Mirka, his longtime girlfriend and now wife, was expecting twins. It might have fed the emotions that ended in his sobbing when he lost the 2009 final in five sets to Nadal.

“First of all we found out here in Australia it was going to be twins,” Federer said. “It was a bit of a shocker again. … It was a very intense phase, all the way from here to after Wimbledon.”

After missing his chance in Australia to match Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam singles titles, Federer equaled the record with his first major on the clay at Roland Garros and then earned his 15th on Wimbledon’s lawn, making him the undisputed king of tennis.

Then the twin daughters were born, and Federer lost the U.S. Open final to Juan Martin del Potro — his first major as a father. Now he’s more familiar with traveling the world with his family, which keeps it all real. And much less regal.

“Yeah, I’ve done it before,” he said, referring to diaper changing. “I will probably do it again, tonight maybe.”

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