Fed­erer faces Cilic for his eighth ti­tle

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — They love their his­tory around these parts, they love Roger Fed­erer and, above all, they love watch­ing him make his­tory.

Now he stands one vic­tory from an un­prece­dented eighth Wim­ble­don men’s sin­gles cham­pi­onship af­ter qual­i­fy­ing for his 11th ap­pear­ance in the fi­nal, break­ing a record he al­ready held.

Just weeks away from turn­ing 36, Fed­erer con­tin­ued his resur­gent sea­son and un­chal­lenged run through this fort­night at the All Eng­land Club by con­jur­ing up enough bril­liance to beat 2010 run­ner-up To­mas Berdych 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the semi­fi­nals Fri­day.

“It’s great, but it doesn’t give me the ti­tle quite yet. That’s why I came here this year,” Fed­erer said. “I’m so close now, so I just got to stay fo­cused.”

He has won ev­ery set he’s played in six matches,

and while he did not ex­actly dom­i­nate against the 11th-seeded Berdych, Fed­erer was never in much trou­ble.

On Sun­day, Fed­erer will face 2014 U.S. Open cham­pion Marin Cilic, who reached his first Wim­ble­don fi­nal by elim­i­nat­ing 24th-seeded Sam Quer­rey of the U.S. 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-5 with the help of 25 aces and some ter­rific re­turns.

“This is his home court,” Cilic said about Fed­erer, “[the] place where he feels the best and knows that he can play the best game.”

Since equal­ing Pete Sam­pras and Wil­liam Ren­shaw (who played in the 1880s) with a sev­enth tro­phy at Wim­ble­don in 2012, Fed­erer has come this close be­fore to No. 8.

But he lost to No­vak Djokovic in the 2014 and 2015 fi­nals.

Here comes an­other chance.

Fed­erer would be the old­est man to win Wim­ble­don in the Open era, which dates to 1968; as it is, he’s the old­est fi­nal­ist since Ken Rose­wall was 39 in 1974.

“I mean, I don’t see any­thing that would in­di­cate re­ally Roger is get­ting older or any­thing like that,” Berdych said. “He’s just prov­ing his great­ness in our sport.”

This is Fed­erer’s sec­ond ma­jor fi­nal of 2017. Af­ter los­ing in the Wim­ble­don semi­fi­nals last year, he took the rest of 2016 off to al­low his sur­gi­cally re­paired left knee to heal.

He came back fit and re­freshed and won the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary for his record-ex­tend­ing 18th Grand Slam ti­tle and first any­where in 4½ years.

“Giv­ing your body rest from time to time is a good thing, as we see now,” Fed­erer said.

“And I’m happy it’s pay­ing off be­cause for a sec­ond, of course, there is doubts there that maybe one day you’ll never be able to come back and play a match on Cen­tre Court at Wim­ble­don. But it hap­pened, and it’s hap­pened many, many times this week.”

And most of the 15,000 or so peo­ple in at­ten­dance were pulling for him. That was ev­i­dent through­out Fri­day, from the cries of “Go, Roger!” to the roars of ap­proval and thun­der­ous ap­plause that greeted some of his best ef­forts on a day when he was not nec­es­sar­ily at his best.

The down-the-line fore­hand pass­ing win­ner that landed right on the op­po­site base­line in the sec­ond set, leav­ing Berdych slump­ing his shoul­ders. Or the no- look, flicked back­hand win­ner sev­eral games later that not many play­ers would even try, let alone man­age to do.

Or the way he ex­tri­cated him­self from a sticky sit­u­a­tion down 3-2 in the third, fac­ing break points at 15-40: 107 mph ace, 116 mph ace, 120 mph ser­vice win­ner, 119 mph ace.

In the very next game, he surged to a 4-3 lead by

break­ing Berdych. That was pretty much that.

“I was able to come up with the goods when it mat­tered,” Fed­erer said.

The No. 7- seeded Cilic was not able to do that in the open­ing tiebreaker against Quer­rey, the first man from the U.S. in any ma­jor semi­fi­nals since 2009.

At 6- all, Cilic seemed dis­tracted by a de­lay of a cou­ple of min­utes when a spec­ta­tor who ap­peared to feel ill was helped from her seat and out of the stands. When ac­tion re­sumed, Cilic flubbed two back­hands to cede the set.

But from there, he stead­ied, han­dling Quer­rey’s big serves rather well. A trio of su­perb re­turns earned a key break in the fourth set, the last a fore­hand off a 79 mph sec­ond serve that drew a shanked back­hand and a yell of “No!” from Quer­rey.

The next test for Cilic is the tough­est — beat­ing Fed­erer at Cen­tre Court.

They met in the Wim­ble­don quar­ter­fi­nals last year, when Cilic took the open­ing two sets and even held a match point be­fore Fed­erer came all the way back to win, im­prov­ing to 6-1 headto-head.

“I still know that it’s a big moun­tain to climb,” Cilic said. “Roger is play­ing maybe [some] of his best ten­nis of his ca­reer at the mo­ment.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.