Every grimace and every groan from Wimbledon’s Centre Court crowd is tantamount to a running commentary when Roger Federer is at work.
Such is the desire to see the champion close in on a record eighth men’s singles crown their reaction paint a vivid picture.
And on Friday, they were thrilled, taunted and ultimately treated to seeing the 35-year-old Swiss reach an 11th Wimbledon final.
His 7-6(4), 7-6(4) 6-4 triumph over Czech No.11 seed Tomas Berdych was his least dominant performance of The Championships so far.
But this was against a perennial performer on the grass, a man who defeated him on Centre Court en route to his sole Grand Slam final in 2010, a man with all the artillery to hurt his old foe on his day.
“I thought it was close. Even though I feel like it reminded me of the matches I’ve had this tournament on some occasions, you know, there were chances for the opponent,” Federer said. “I was able to come up with the goods when it mattered.”
Where a 19th Grand Slam title beckons, on Sunday the Swiss stands to do something he has never managed – claim the seven matches without the loss of a set.
“The breakers, I played good in the breakers, or at least used – if my opponents didn’t play well in the breakers, I was able to close it out,” Federer said. “Never played with any sense of panic, which is so important when it gets to crunch time. So, yeah, it was the toughest match … It was close. I’m happy I won all these big points today.”
Next up, another of the taller brigade, his 2014 US Open conqueror, Marin Cilic. The pair played out arguably the match of the season in last year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals where Federer prevailed after he saved match points. He will carry a 6-1 head-to-head record into the final against the No.6 seed. It is the first time since the Wimbledon 2009 final he has not faced either Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray. Victory on that Sunday came against Andy Roddick.
“I don’t want to say it’s more relaxed going into it because I have a good head-to-head record against Marin, even though the matches were extremely close,” Federer said.
“But it’s not like we’ve played against each other 30 times … It’s more straightforward, in my opinion. I think that’s nice in some ways. It’s a nice change, but it doesn’t make things easier.”
Twice this year Federer and Berdych had duelled. There were concerns how deep the Swiss player’s demolition of the Czech in the third round of this year’s Australian Open would have damaged the 31-year-old’s pride. While far from his best start to a season, Berdych went some way to restoring some belief when he held two match points before he fell to the Swiss in the quarter-finals in Miami.
On Friday, breaks were traded in a patchy first set from both before back-to-back shanked errors off the ground from Berdych ended the opening set tie-break after 53 minutes.
With neither player able to break in the second set, again it would be decided in a tie-break. And it was here Federer shone. Three straight crosscourt forehand winners saw him carve out a 4-1 lead. Barring a fourth double fault of the match, he punched his card with a two-set lead, 7-4, on a backhand error from the Czech.
History was not on Berdych’s side at this point. Never before had he come back from two sets down to win a Grand Slam match.
Federer saved a pair of break points with back-to-back aces to hold for 3-3 in the third set and it would be his last serious test.
He broke the following game when Berdych pushed wide and went on to close it out on his second match point; a backhand dumped into the net consigning Berdych to a second straight Wimbledon semi-final defeat.
Victory makes Federer the oldest Wimbledon finalist since a 39-year-old Ken Rosewall finished runner-up to Jimmy Connors in 1974.
“It means a lot because Ken is a wonderful man and marked history in a big way for us players,” Federer said of the achievement. “I hope I get to see him later on, it feels great.”
It’s one match to go as Federer looks to continue leaving his mark on history in a big way.
Source: Dan Imhoff| Wimbledon