PARIS – Roger Federer set a new record of 234 Grand Slam match wins Wednesday to reach the French Open last 32 where he was joined by top seed Novak Djokovic whose date with tennis destiny edged a little closer.
Federer, the third seed, overcame a mid-match wobble to beat Romania’s Adrian Ungur 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (6/8), 6-3, and go past Jimmy Connors’ long-standing record of 233 wins at the majors which he’d equalled in the first round.
The 16-time Grand Slam title winner will face Nicolas Mahut of France for a place in the last 16.
On a subdued day at Roland Garros, Federer’s post-match news conference was spent discussing Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.
“I had lunch next to the queen, that was exciting,” said Federer, recalling the monarch’s visit to Wimbledon in 2010 after a 33-year absence.
“She was very sweet, very nice, very polite, of course, and a pleasure to be around.”
The 27-year-old Ungur, the world number 92, knocked out Argentine veteran David Nalbandian in the first round on his Grand Slam debut, having failed to qualify for any major on 13 previous occasions.
He was swept aside on the first two sets on Wednesday, but once he had saved two match points in the third set tiebreaker, he came alive to take the second round clash to a fourth set.
But normal service was soon resumed with Federer, playing in his 50th straight Grand Slam event, taking the match when the colourfully tattooed Ungur slapped a backhand return wide.
Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion Djokovic edged closer to history with a 6-0, 6-4, 6-4 win over Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic.
The world number one, bidding to become only the third man after Don Budge and Rod Laver to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, put down a gutsy challenge from world number 99 Kavcic.
Djokovic fired 41 winners past the Slovenian, taking victory on a fourth match point, to set up a clash with French qualifier Nicolas Devilder, the world number 286.
“I gave him the opportunity to come back after I had had a perfect first seven games,” said Djokovic.
“But I expected him to fight. He had nothing to lose and he showed his fighting qualities.”
Argentine ninth seed Juan Martin Del Potro, the only man outside of Djokovic, Federer and Rafael Nadal to have won a major in the last seven years, clinched a 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 6-4 win over France’s Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
Del Potro, battling a knee injury, and who had to call the trainer onto the court for the second match in a row, faces Croatian 21st seed Marin Cilic.
“The knee always worries me but I try not to think about it on the court. I get treatment and then do all I can just to get ready for my next match,” said the 2009 US Open winner and a semi-finalist in Paris in 2009.
Cilic put out 2003 French Open winner and former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-3.
Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych, a semi-finalist in 2010, eased into the third round with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over France’s Michael Llodra.
He next faces South Africa’s 31st seed Kevin Anderson who put out Argentine qualifier Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0.
American wildcard Brian Baker, who was playing in a Grand Slam event for the first time since 2005 after undergoing five surgeries and working as a college coach, saw his run come to an end.
Gilles Simon, the 11th seeded Frenchman, put out the world number 141 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (4/7), 1-6, 6-0.
Simon, who has to get beyond the fourth round in Paris, will tackle Swiss 18th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who beat Spain’s Pablo Andujar 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-1, for a place in the last 16.
Heavy rain brought an early finish to the day with three singles still to be completed.