Not even the fastest serve of the year could save Sam Groth from Wimbledon elimination at the surgical hands of the great Roger Federer.
In a majestic display of grasscourt tennis, Federer wowed a capacity centre-court crowd with a 6-4 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 victory over Australia’s gallant serve-volleyer on Saturday.
The four-set defeat left Nick Kyrgios as the last Australian standing in the singles after Casey Dellacqua also crashed out with a 6-1 6-4 third-round loss to Agnieszka Radwanska.
Groth seized on a rare lapse from the Swiss maestro to steal the first set of the championships from Federer before normal service resumed and the seven-times champion and nine-times finalist advanced to the second week for the 13th time in his unparalleled career.
Squaring off at a grand slam for the second time, after Federer ousted Groth in straight sets at last year’s US Open, the Australian rocketed down a 236kph cannonball in the third game of the match.
The missile delivery was the second-fasted ever recorded at the All England Club, behind only American Taylor Dent’s – also in a losing cause against Novak Djokovic – – in 2010.
“How in the world can you handle that … how can you see it?” John McEnroe wondered from his courtside commentary box.
But the cool Swiss shrugged it off and proceeded to break Groth once each in the first two sets before his one and only double-fault of the match cost the second seed in the third-set tiebreaker.
Federer quickly regrouped to unleash a sizzling forehand pass to break Groth once more and charge to a 3-0 lead in the fourth set.
This time there was no coming back as Groth bowed out after two hours and 16 minutes.
Some of Federer’s numbers, including 90 per cent of points won on his own first serve, were astounding and had Groth’s fellow Victorian and 1987 winner Pat Cash predicting the Swiss legend may well land a record eighth crown in 2015.
“He was so close last year and I think he’s playing better,” Cash said.
Federer lost in five sets to Novak Djokovic in last year’s championship decider, the Swiss’s ninth final at SW19, and he’s undoubtedly in better touch 12 months on after tweaking his silky game under Stefan Edberg’s crafty coaching.
But Federer was thrilled enough just to see off Groth, who sent down 21 aces to 17, in such convincing style.
“You can stay in the match just by serving that’s obviously what makes him dangerous, even more so on grass,” Federer said.
“It’s tricky no doubt, but I needed to focus on my service game and I did that very well.
“I don’t think I faced a break point.”