WIM­BLE­DON

Yuma Sun - - SUN SPORTS -

could have. I should have.”

While his tour­na­ment is over, two of his long-time ri­vals at the top of ten­nis set up a semi­fi­nal show­down: Rafael Nadal and No­vak Djokovic. Nadal, who’s won two of his 17 Grand Slam ti­tles at Wim­ble­don, edged 2009 U.S. Open cham­pion Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a wildly en­ter­tain­ing match that fea­tured div­ing shots by both and lasted 4 hours, 48 min­utes.

Djokovic, whose 12 ma­jor cham­pi­onships in­clude three from the All Eng­land Club, got to his first Grand Slam semi­fi­nal since 2016 by beat­ing No. 24 seed Kei Nishikori 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

In Fri­day’s other men’s match, An­der­son will face No. 9 John Is­ner, the 33-year-old Amer­i­can who reached his first ma­jor semi­fi­nal in his 41st try by elim­i­nat­ing 2016 run­nerup Mi­los Raonic 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-3. Is­ner hit 25 aces, saved the only break point he faced, and has won all 95 of his ser­vice games in the tour­na­ment.

Fed­erer hadn’t been bro­ken un­til fac­ing An­der­son. Still, the 20-time ma­jor cham­pion was lead­ing by two sets and 5-4 in the third when, with An­der­son serv­ing, he got to Ad-Out. He could have ended things right then and there. Fed­erer man­aged to re­turn a 134 mph serve, but on his next stroke, he shanked a back­hand.

Back to deuce. From there, it all be­gan to change. An­der­son held for 5-all, broke to 6-5 with a vi­o­lent re­turn win­ner off a 97 mph sec­ond serve, then staved off three break points and closed the set with a 133 mph ace.

The come­back was just

be­gin­ning.

“I had my chances,” Fed­erer said, “so it’s dis­ap­point­ing.”

This was only the third time in Fed­erer’s 20 years of con­test­ing Grand Slam matches that he lost af­ter tak­ing the open­ing two sets; both of the other de­feats came in 2011. And, ac­cord­ing to the ATP, it’s the fifth time Fed­erer lost a match at a ma­jor af­ter hold­ing a match point, some­thing else that last hap­pened seven years ago.

How hard was it to see this com­ing?

First of all, Fed­erer was 4-0 against An­der­son, win­ning ev­ery set. But there was more. So much more. Fed­erer was at­tempt­ing to reach his 13th semi­fi­nal at Wim­ble­don and move closer to ti­tle No. 9, both of which would have bro­ken his own records.

He came into the match hav­ing won 32 con­sec­u­tive sets at Wim­ble­don, a run he stretched to 34 be­fore fal­ter­ing.

“I just kept on telling my­self, ‘I have to keep be­liev­ing.’ I kept say­ing that to­day was go­ing to be my day,” An­der­son said, “be­cause you re­ally need that mind­set tak­ing the court against some­body like Roger.”

An­der­son was the run­ner-up to Nadal at last year’s U.S. Open, but he never made it be­yond the fourth round at Wim­ble­don un­til this week. He hit 28 aces against Fed­erer, saved nine of 12 break points and man­aged to hold his own in the rare lengthy base­line ral­lies.

“It’s like that with the big servers,” Fed­erer said. “You’re never re­ally safe.”

As the fifth set be­came as much a test of men­tal strength as any­thing, from 4-all to 6-all to 8-all to 10-all, An­der­son stayed steady. It was Fed­erer who blinked,

dou­ble-fault­ing to face a break point at 11-all, then slap­ping a fore­hand into the net.

An­der­son, a 32-year-old South African who played col­lege ten­nis at Illi­nois, served it out, end­ing things with a 128 mph ser­vice win­ner be­fore rais­ing both arms.

Djokovic got his wish to play in the main sta­dium, and he showed that he might com­pletely be back from right el­bow trou­bles that lasted more than a year un­til he fi­nally had surgery in Fe­bru­ary.

He’s been flash­ing some anger this fort­night and did so again in the sec­ond set, bounc­ing his racket off the turf af­ter fail­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on three break points at 1-all. That earned a code vi­o­la­tion from chair um­pire Car­los Ramos. When Nishikori let his own racket fly in the fourth set, he wasn’t chas­tised, which prompted Djokovic to yell “dou­ble stan­dards” to­ward Ramos — draw­ing boos from fans.

“He claims that he didn’t see what Nishikori has done, but ap­par­ently he al­ways sees what I do,” Djokovic said af­ter­ward, “some­thing that I don’t think is fair.”

Later, Ramos warned Djokovic for a time vi­o­la­tion, but that didn’t seem to faze the Serb.

Soon enough, Djokovic was on his way to the semi­fi­nals, where he will meet Nadal.

“I like the level of ten­nis that I’m play­ing on right now. I re­ally do. I think with the per­for­mances I’ve had, I de­serve to be in the semi­fi­nals,” said Djokovic, whose last ma­jor ti­tle came at the 2016 French Open. “I don’t want to stop here. I hope I can get a chance to fight for a tro­phy.”

He’ll have to get past Nadal first.

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