LONDON, June 25 – Roger Federer demonstrated why he is adored by centre court but Maria Sharapova's return to Wimbledon's main stage turned sour on Wednesday as the Russian became the tournament's biggest casualty to date.Playing with a fluency that was missing in his first round victory, Federer strolled to a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 win over Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
Ominously, Federer said there was still plenty to more to come from him.
"I had to be solid and that’s what I was," he said. "There are many rounds to pass and there will be guys who have nothing to lose against me. But I’m confident and I’m playing great."
Novak Djokovic, the man Federer is due to meet at the semi-final stage, also advanced to the last 32 but the Serb will be acutely aware that he will have to raise his game significantly if he is to prevent the Swiss maestro from claiming a sixth singles title at the All England club.
With the crowd roaring on her opponent, Sharapova went down to a three-sets defeat to Gisela Dulko that will inevitably raise questions about whether the 2004 champion will ever reign again at the All England club.
It was notable that support for Argentina’s Dulko rose in parallel with the increase in the decibel levels of her opponent’s grunting.
But Sharapova insisted that she had been affected by the way the crowd had turned against her.
"That was the least of my worries today," she snapped after her 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 loss. "I was just trying to win a tennis match."
Sharapova was playing only her fourth tournament since she resumed playing after a ten-month lay-off during which she underwent surgery on her right shoulder. But her exit was as much about how well Dulko played as any rustiness on the part of the Russian.
Returning Sharapova’s serve superbly and deftly moving her opponent around the court, Dulko went a set and 3-0 up before Sharapova reeled off seven successive games to claim the initiative.
At that stage — 0-1 down in the third set — few would have bet on Dulko at that stage but the 24-year-old recovered and, after a rollercoaster final set, she clinched the biggest win of her career on her fifth match point.
Sharapova’s demise could ease the path to the final for Serena Williams, who demolished Australia’s Jarmila Groth 6-2, 6-1 and underlined her determination to stop sister Venus from claiming a sixth singles title here.
"I should have won more than twice here and I didn’t," she said. "Hopefully I can rectify that this year."
Zheng Jie, the 16th seed and a semi-finalist here last year, also went out, beaten 6-3, 7-5 by Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova, who will now face Japanese number one Ai Sugiyama.
Djokovic eased into a third round meeting with big-hitting American Mardy Fish with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 win over German qualifier Simon Gruel, but the Serb was far from buoyant about his prospects for the rest of the tournament.
"I can’t say I am genuinely pleased because I had a lot of ups and downs in the match but I’m happy to get through in straight sets," he said.
"I have no expectations, I’m not putting any pressure on myself. Nobody is talking about me and I’m happy with that."
Former Australian Open finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga strolled into the last 32 without striking a ball after his second round opponent, Simone Bolelli of Italy, pulled out with a back injury.
Tsonga, France’s number one and the ninth seed, will face either Croatian 22nd seed Ivo Karlovic or Steve Darcis of Belgium for a place in the last 16.
Israel’s Dudi Sela upset 18th seed Rainer Schuettler 7-6, 6-3, 6-2 to earn a crack at 15th seed Tommy Robredo, who came back from two sets down to beat Stefan Koubek, of Austria.