Monday, July 04, 2016

Roger Federer through to his 14th quarter-final at Wimbledon

Roger Federer marched into his 48th Grand Slam quarter-final, and his 14th at Wimbledon, with a ruthless Centre Court demolition of the No.29 seed Steve Johnson.

The American was on an eight-match winning streak coming into this match, having clinched the Nottingham title in the build-up to Wimbledon, but at 26 he has never been beyond the fourth round of a Slam. Encountering the 17-time Grand Slam champion brought his hopes of a debut last eight appearance to a grinding halt, as his efforts to take control with his serve and forehand made little headway.

Even when he broke Federer’s serve in the third set, his own first serve immediately let him down and the Swiss bounced right back. There would be no Fourth of July celebration for the American – Federer won 6-2, 6-3, 7-5 and has yet to lose a set this Fortnight.

“It wasn’t as easy as maybe it looked,” said Federer afterwards. “He really picked up confidence in the last few weeks. I would never have thought I would go through the first four rounds in straight sets.”

But he has, and in the third set of this match against Johnson, his desire to keep hold of that confidence-boosting knowledge was plain. He surrendered his own serve for 1-3, and it was largely Johnson’s failings which put them immediately back on terms. But all the while Johnson was like a dog with a competitive bone, and had the set reached a tie-break he might well have pushed the match into a fourth.

Instead, at 5-5 Johnson had a bafflingly horrible game. With an open court offering him easy options, Johnson opted to let a pass go by instead of patting it back over the net – bad decision, as it landed on the line. Worse was to come. For reasons which weren’t clear, he attempted a tweener and failed, creating two break points, after which he sent the ball long. Federer needed no second invitation and duly served it out on his first match point, courtesy of an ace. Johnson’s bid to be the first American man in the last eight at Wimbledon fell short.

Next up for Federer is Marin Cilic, and his appetite for that match could hardly be plainer. Those aware only that the Swiss leads their career jousts 5-1 might be puzzled, but Cilic’s one victory came two years ago in the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows, in the Croat’s annus mirabilis there. That straight sets obliteration remains the last time they played, and the memory rankles.

“He brushed me off the court like I was nothing that day, so I’m really hoping to get him back,” promised Federer, adding with a non-sequitur of genuine sincerity: “He’s a super guy. I practised with him when I arrived here at Wimbledon. He was playing great – one-two, one-two, serving, boom, forehand, serving, boom, backhand… Very aggressive. I know what I’m getting into.

“But I’m happy about my game as well. I’ve been able to rise to the occasion to play a really good match against Johnson. I think it was by far my best match. So I’m confident.”

Cilic next. The first real test for Federer

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