FEDERER MOVES ON
WILL FACE CILIC IN FINAL
Having spent the 2016 Wimbledon final Sunday already gone and in a cloud of doubt, Roger Federer will spend this one in another setting altogether. He will return this Sunday to the Centre Court so familiar to him that he ought to be allowed an easy chair here, and he will pursue yet another turn at the unprecedented.
After his 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 passage through Tomas Berdych in the second semifinal on Friday, Federer will oppose Marin Cilic, the No. 6-ranked Croatian who ended the long, winding, breakthrough slog of American Sam Querrey by 6-7 (8-6), 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 7-5.
If Federer can defeat Cilic, he will have an eighth Wimbledon men’s singles title, more than any player ever in an event with a gigantic “ever,” having begun in 1887.
There wasn’t much air between Federer and Berdych as they tangled for the 25th time, a 35-year-old in his 70th Grand Slam (Federer) and a 31-year-old in his 55th (Berdych). Both knew how to play the moment, nobody cracked much, and Federer made Berdych crack only just enough as he ran his set record this Wimbledon to 16-0.
He gained a 3-1 lead in the first-set tiebreaker with an approach that whirred devilishly into the corner and set up a backhand volley into the open court. He held onto that from there. He gained a 5-1 lead in the second-set tiebreaker with the help of three straight winners: a destroyed forehand return, a forehand that dove down obediently to the baseline and a forehand passing shot pulled across the court. To those, which supplied a 4-1 lead, he added an inside-out forehand that both zoomed and sang, coaxing a wide forehand out of Berdych.
Otherwise, Federer provided the customary gasps here and there at his unlikely shots, but also hung on through a period midway through the match when his first serve left him for a while and Berdych’s calibre shone. When he broke Berdych’s serve for only the second time at 3-3 in the third set, it grew clear Federer was bound for a match with Cilic, who routed Federer in the 2014 U.S. Open semifinals and had him pinned down here last year in the Wimbledon quarterfinals until Federer withstood a two-set deficit and a chockablock fourth-set tiebreaker that ended 11-9, winning in five sets.
From that match, Federer went on to a semifinal with Milos Raonic, which Federer lost from a two-setsto-one lead, and spent a harrowing final game of the fourth set spraying around double faults in an unusual scene. It would be his last match of last season, by demand of his left knee. At that moment, it seemed improbable that, come the Wimbledon Sunday of 2017, he would seek his second Grand Slam title of the three played so far this year.
His opponent wound up to be Cilic, who will make his Wimbledon final debut. During Fridya’s first semifinal, it was Querrey who seemed to steer capably toward what would have been a fourth consecutive five-set match in his sterling Wimbledon.
Then things turned, and rarefied quality prevailed. Cilic hoarded five of the last six games to snuff out the thing.
Switzerland’s Roger Federer returns a shot to Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych during their semifinal match Friday.