Twelve months on from his semi-final defeat here by Milos Raonic, the seven-time champion delivered a hiding in the opening two sets of this quarter-final, and then stonewalled the Canadian’s best efforts in the third.
Raonic came into this match having won the most recent two of their 12 career meetings, but Federer redressed the balance by reaching his 12th Wimbledon semi-final 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(4) in one hour and 58 minutes. He will face Tomas Berdych for a place in the 11th Wimbledon final of his career.
It was remarkable that Federer could so much as move around the court, given that he was wading through his usual number of astonishing new records in this match. If all of them were to be listed here, this report might need to become one of one of those 100-week part works still occasionally advertised on television (“buy Part One and get Part Two free”).
However, for those seeking a digest of the main bullet points… (Draws deep breath)… This was Federer’s 50th Grand Slam quarter-final (a record), his 89th match win at Wimbledon (a record), which earned him his 12th Wimbledon semi-final (a record), and his 42nd Grand Slam semi-final (a record). He even contributed to another record, by being among the five men over 30 in the quarter-finals here (an Open Era record).
For those wondering, the fact that this was his 100th match on the Wimbledon lawns counted merely as a personal landmark; ironically, however, it was not a record – although should he reach Sunday’s final, he will equal Jimmy Connors’ mark.
On a fitfully sunny Centre Court, Raonic got off to a textbook fast start, holding to love with a game in which he delivered a serve of 140mph. It looked like an excellent confidence-booster for a player hamstrung this year by – well, a hamstring problem, actually. But moments later he was fending off the Federer attack. At 2-2 a loose volley gave Federer an opening, and a really fabulous running crosscourt pass from the No.3 seed fooled Raonic at the net. Even by this early stage, Federer had amassed nine winners to zero errors, while the Canadian’s figures were 6-4. With ironic emphasis, Federer served out the opener with his fifth ace, having surrendered just three points on his delivery all set.
Raonic simply wasn’t converting enough of his first serves – his key weapon – into actual points on the board, and at the start of the second set the crisis deepened. The latest winner from the Federer forehand gave the Swiss the chance to breach right at the off, whereupon Raonic’s attempt to make Federer play a backhand drifted wide. With the Canadian’s signature lugubrious demeanour more dispirited than ever, at 1-3 he couldn’t reach a pass at the net, and the double break came up. If Raonic hadn’t got the message, Federer served out the set to love, with the clock still short of the hour mark.
All that was left to last year’s runner-up was to take a bathroom break, which he did at some leisure, adding a change of shoes on his return for good measure (something he likes to do every couple of sets in any match). A short rash of forehand mistakes from Federer gave Raonic a break point, but he couldn’t capitalise. At 4-3, though, he really threatened the Swiss serve, earning four separate break points, two of which were gorgeous stuff – a marvellous running crosscourt winner, and a punchy return.
But all four chances fell on stony ground – and perhaps that game ultimately was the most remarkably for witnessing the rarest of sights this Wimbledon, the Federer double fault. It was his second… not of the match, but of these Championships. Raonic pushed the set into the tiebreak, and edged ahead, but the Federer forehand struck again to devastating effect, pulling him back from 0-3 to 5-3. It was soon over.
As for all those records, at least one member of the Centre Court crowd was happy that Friday’s semi-final will not see Federer become the oldest man to reach the last four here in the Open Era. At the age of 35 years 342 days, he is a mere whippersnapper by comparison with Ken Rosewall, who was 39 years 246 days as runner-up to Jimmy Connors in 1974. Watching the Swiss youngster from the stands, Rosewall, now 82, has changed so little that he remains instantly recognisable.
There may be three semi-finalists at Wimbledon 2017 whom few had forecast, but with Rosewall in SW19 and Federer in the last four again, familiarity still has much to recommend it. There are some things hereabouts we never want to change.
I'm just gonna say it, in my last post I said he would beat Raonic in straights. And I've never been happier to be right. What I didn't expect was how easily he won the first 2 sets. I thought for sure he would have to win it in 3 tie-breaks.
But Roger definitely came to play and he delivered yet another master class. What I did not foresee (along with pretty much everyone else) was the fact that Roger would be the lone remaining guy out of the big four. With Murray beaten in 5 sets by Querrey and most surprising Djokovic retiring vs Berdych.
No one could have predicted this. To say I'm looking forward to Federer's next 2 matches would be an understatement. Don't get me wrong Berdych is a tough opponent and I expect he will give Roger a fight, but I get the feeling he'll come through that one with not too much difficulty.
As for the other 2 semi-finalists, Cilic would be Roger's biggest challenge. If I remember correctly he give him a run for his money in last year's Wimbledon, (in fact he was match points down and 2 sets down) so it's not going to be a cake-walk despite the big 3 not being there.
Bring it on Wimbledon 2017. I am loving the way things are shaping up.