Eight-time champion Roger Federer continued his dominance over France’s Richard Gasquet to set up a Wimbledon third-round meeting with British number two Cameron Norrie.
Federer, 39, extended his winning record over 35-year-old Gasquet to 19-2 with a 7-6 (7-1) 6-1 6-4 victory.
Norrie reached the last 32 for the first time with a 6-3 6-1 6-2 win against Australian wildcard Alex Bolt.
“I hope the crowd gets into it,” said sixth seed Federer on facing Norrie.
“I understand if they cheer for him and if it is for me it is because of the last 20 years and all the big wins I’ve had here.
“Cam is a good guy, he’s had a wonderful year and played great at Queen’s, backing that up here.”
Then the Swiss quipped: “But enough now – he needs to go out! I need to go through.”
Norrie, 25, has been one of the leading players on the ATP Tour this year, demonstrating his form and ability earlier on Thursday in front of an impressed home crowd on Court One.
The 29th seed lost the first three games against Bolt before winning 11 in a row to turn around the contest.
Norrie broke twice more in the final set and was given a standing ovation after clinching victory.
When asked about the possibility of playing 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer, Norrie joked: “Come on Gasquet!”
Whether serious or not, Norrie did not get his wish but looks sure to give Federer a tough test on Saturday.
The smiling Briton added: “If there is a time to play Roger, I guess now is the best – but he is still a decent player!”
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Federer ‘very happy’ after blowing off more cobwebs
Federer struggled in his opening match against Adrian Mannarino, avoiding a huge upset as injury robbed the Frenchman of the chance to earn a memorable win.
There have been doubts about Federer’s own form and fitness.
After two knee surgeries, Federer made his Grand Slam return after a 16-month absence at last month’s French Open but pulled out before his last-16 match to “protect his body”.
That was followed by a chastening defeat at Halle which left him uncharacteristically despondent afterwards.
But, after a slow start against Gasquet, Federer dominated the first-set tie-break and then loosened up to ease through the next two sets.
“It’s not the most important to feel your absolute best in the first and second round,” Federer said.
“What you really don’t want to do is go out because then you really have to look at everything and question yourself.
“I’m in the third round, I’m really happy with my level right now. Today was special and I’m very happy with that.”
Possibly third time lucky against one of the ‘Big Three’?
Bolt, ranked 149th, was handed a wildcard after winning a Challenger title in Nottingham last month and made a lightning start as he attempted to earn a ninth successive victory.
But Norrie quickly computed what he needed to do against another left-hander, constantly making his opponent play with his relentless returning.
“It was a tricky start, he came out firing and I was down a break,” said Norrie, who beat French former world number 10 Lucas Pouille in the second round on Wednesday.
“I felt the court was easier to move on than court two yesterday and I could really trust the foot.
“I was moving really strong out the corners and didn’t give him too much. There was a lot of improvement from the other day.
“I’m very happy to be in the third round and I couldn’t be more pleased for myself.”
Only two players have won more matches than Norrie on the ATP Tour this year – Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas and Russia’s Andrey Rublev, who are both ranked in the top 10.
Norrie has climbed to a career-high ranking of 34th, leading to him being seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time.
Despite that success, and reaching the Queen’s final in the run-up to Wimbledon, there will still be plenty across Britain who know little about his pedigree.
Born in South Africa to Scottish and Welsh parents, he switched allegiance to Britain in 2013 and has enjoyed by far the best year of his career in 2021.
Reaching the Wimbledon last 32 means he has made a Grand Slam third round for the third time running – and will again face one of the sport’s all-time greats there.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal beat him at this year’s Australian Open and French Open, but Norrie showed enough in both of those matches – and says he has learned from playing more of the biggest names in recent months – to potentially cause an upset.
And if any of the Wimbledon fans think they hear some unsavoury language from Norrie during rallies, he has explained how they are mistaken.
“I’m not swearing at all. I think when I’m hitting the ball, I’m saying ‘shh,’ like releasing air,” he said.
“I think the crowd think that I am swearing because I hear a couple people mumbling. I think I’m trying to get a little more topspin on the ball.
“That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m not swearing. I’m not swearing.”