WIMBLEDON, England - The rising young Frenchman. The unknown Czech. The veteran German. The former French Open champion from Spain with the quick feet.
Through the first 10 days of Wimbledon, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Ivo Minar, Nicolas Kiefer, Juan Carlos Ferrero and anyone else searching for the smallest crack in Federer's game has been greatly disappointed.
Federer has lost one set, a tiebreaker to Kiefer, which he could blame on un-Federer-like consecutive double faults.
Other than that, he's shown his usual form, as Gonzalez found out in a 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (2) quarterfinal loss in which Federer constantly parried the South American's powerful forehands.
When it was over, instead of looking exhausted by his latest challenge, Federer sounded as if he'd just had a great adventure.
"It's always interesting to play against him because you sort of have to weather the storm," Federer said.
"He hits the ball with so much pace. But I still enjoy it because you get good rallies. I have to really work hard on my defense, and sometimes that's something I don't do so often."
The victory, Federer's 34th in a row on grass, sent him into tomorrow's semifinals against Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, whom he has beaten seven times in a row. Hewitt might have played his best match of the tournament in beating strong-serving Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (2).
In the lower half of the draw, No. 2 Andy Roddick won his second five-setter of the tournament by beating good friend Sebastien Grosjean of France, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, to go into the final four against 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson of Sweden.
Johansson handled David Nalbandian with surprising ease, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-2, overpowering the Argentinian from the baseline.
The challenge for Federer was how to repel Gonzalez, who would probably climb into the stands to run around his backhand and hit a forehand.
Federer, the two-time defending Wimbledon champion, had to constantly go deep into his backhand corner to counter Gonzalez's cross-court shots, but he managed to do it with such ease that he committed only 10 unforced errors.
Gonzalez broke serve in the sixth game of the opening set to get even at 3, but had only one more break-point opportunity in the match, which Federer fended off in the ninth game of the final set.
Federer then won the last five points of the tiebreaker.
Because he hits so many inside-out forehands, it's not easy to force Gonzalez to hit backhands. Federer found a way.
"I really got to his backhand well," Federer said. "It was really a match like I wanted to play. I know he can't play through the entire five-setter hitting just incredible forehands. He's going to have his lapses. That's when I had to take advantage of."
Hewitt cannot be looking forward to this semifinal. He lost to Federer in four sets in last year's Wimbledon quarterfinals.. He lost to Federer in the 2004 U.S. Open final in three sets, two of which ended 6-0. He lost to Federer in the final of this year's Pacific Life Open, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.
"I'm not sure what the key is," said Hewitt, contemplating what he must do to beat the best player in the game. "Have to find something in the next couple of days."
Hewitt's game is retrieval and counter-punching, with a handful of points gotten off unreturnable serves. But Federer's game is offense, and great offense beats great defense on grass.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.