Roger Federer just played the best match of Wimbledon this year. Coming back from a two set deficit, he defeated Marin Cilic 6-7,4-6,6-3,7-6,6-3 to reach his 11th semi-final at Wimbledon. This was just the 10th time in his career that Federer had come back to win after losing the first two sets. At the beginning of the match, Federer was playing just like a 35 year old should be. He had break points in the first set which he could not convert. Cilic’s serve was just too good for him. He kept making unforced errors from every corner of the court. He was down 0-5 in the first set tie-breaker which he finally lost. At the end of the second set, his service had been broken, he was two sets down and seemed a little agitated with everything around him. But, in the third set, when Federer was 0-40 down on his own serve, something just snapped. Federer won the next five points to save the game and thereafter, Federer took Cilic off-guard and as soon as he broke Cilic’s serve to go up 5-3, we knew we were in for a treat.
From that point on, Federer grew in confidence. His forehand shots started becoming winners, he started making lesser errors on his backhand. And as Federer’s confidence grew, so did Cilic’s nervousness and uncertainty. Everything until then had gone as per Ivanisevic’s plan. But by the time Federer found his rhythm, Cilic had no tricks left. Cilic did get his chances but couldn’t deliver. At 9-9 in the fourth set tie-breaker, Cilic had the entire advantage-court to place the ball, with Federer still trying to recover from his previous shot, but Cilic hit a wide forehand. A very bad time to make that kind of mistake. Maybe this is where experience kicks in. Even though, Marin Cilic is a Grand Slam champion, his is no match to the kind of experience that Federer has. The likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic belong in the later rounds of a tournament. It is less about their game and physical capabilities and more about their mental strength and the ability to think straight when it counts most. There was no reason for Cilic to lose today but a lot of reasons for why he lost.
Federer had to save three match points before he went on to win the match. This speaks volumes about the situation that Cilic was able to put him in and Raonic will try to do the same in the semi-finals. Milos Raonic has been in great form and had a relatively easier quarter-final match as compared to his next opponent. Raonic has a great serve and in this tournament, he has used a lot of serve-and-volley (Federer still does it better though!).
Roger Federer has a perfect record (10-0) in Wimbledon semi-finals and he would have to play another superb match if he wishes to keep it that way. Federer can beat Raonic on any given day, but he wouldn’t be able to do so if he allows Raonic to take a two-set lead. Raonic isn’t Cilic, nor is he playing his first Wimbledon semi-final (Well! He did lose to Federer in his first Wimbledon semi-final in 2014). Federer will have to keep the pressure on Raonic from the very beginning and winning the first set shall be very crucial for him. I hope we find the roof closed, less windy conditions aid Federer’s game.
Some say that a five set match in the quarter-finals will leave a depleted Federer vulnerable and might be the cause for his defeat in the semis. Well, the way I see it, Federer just got out of the closet. Before the quarter-finals, none of his opponents had really challenged him or given him a reason to bring out his A-game. Well, Federer did when Cilic asked for it. So, it is not for us to worry if Federer can recover after a five-setter to play a semi-final match against a player significantly younger to him, he has a team in place for that.
With his quarter-final win, Roger Federer has broken Martina Navratilova’s record for most Grand Slam matches won and now holds the record with 307 wins. He has also equaled Jimmy Connors’ record of 11 Wimbledon semi-finals and 84 matches won at the AELTC. While Connors has a 6-5 record at the semi-finals at Wimbledon, Federer has never lost in the semi-finals here.
The last time Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Venus Williams reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in their respective categories was in 2009. The Williams sisters had lifted the complete Wimbledon kit that year, as Serena and Venus won the Women’s doubles title and Serena won the singles title by defeating Venus in the finals. The same year, Roger Federer surpassed Pete Sampras’ long standing record of 14 Grand Slams by beating Andy Roddick in a thrilling match. 2009 was also the last time when Federer beat a Croatian in the Quarter-Finals at Wimbledon, only he did that more comfortably. Nobody has foreseen the upcoming weekend but I have a weird sense of déjà vu. The William sisters could very well win the doubles title, both Serena and Venus could reach the finals and Roger could break the record for most Grand Slam titles again, just that this time it will be his own.
People talk about Federer’s age, his racket, his retirement, his physical limitations, but how about his nerves, his will to win and the energy he brings to the game? We know not if this will be his last Wimbledon or his last chance to win a Grand Slam title (people have been saying that since 2014, and he has reached three Grand Slam finals ever since), but what we do know is that Federer is in his third straight Wimbledon semi final and his fourth straight Grand Slam semi final (Only Novak Djokovic boasts of a better record in the same time period).
After Federer’s win today, John McEnroe (Former World No 1 and Raonic’s coach) said that Federer had no business winning that match. Well sir, if he continues to play like this, neither will Raonic.