Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 26 JUNE
Revenge is a dish best served with a cold. Roger Federer has been playing with the sniffles this Wimbledon, but on the evidence of the impact upon his play in these Championships to date, perhaps the affliction should be renamed a hot.
Twelve months on from his semi-final defeat here by Milos Raonic, the seven-time champion delivered a hiding in the opening two sets of this quarter-final, and then stonewalled the Canadian’s best efforts in the third.
Afterwards, Federer smiled patiently at the suggestion that with three unexpected names in the last four, some now regard him as a near-certainty to become the only man ever to lift the Gentlemen’s Trophy here eight times.
“Being the favourite or not the the favourite doesn't matter,” he said. “These other guys [Berdych, Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey] are all big hitters. They will have their word to say on the outcome of the matches. They've got big serves, big forehands, big hitters really. All three guys are taller and stronger than I am. I have to figure out a different way, carve my way through somehow with my slice and my spins, my consistency maybe.
"I don’t see myself playing better than a few years ago. Am I surprised by how I’m playing? Maybe a bit. The idea of missing the clay court season was to feel my best – yes, supercharged – in the second week of Wimbledon. I feel like it’s coming along nicely."
Raonic came into this match having won the most recent two of their 12 career meetings, but Federer redressed the balance by reaching his 12th Wimbledon semi-final 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(4) in one hour and 58 minutes. He will face Tomas Berdych for a place in the 11th Wimbledon final of his career.
It was remarkable that Federer could so much as move around the court, given that he was wading through his usual number of astonishing new records in this match. If all of them were to be listed here, this report might need to become one of one of those 100-week part works still occasionally advertised on television (“buy Part One and get Part Two free”).
However, for those seeking a digest of the main bullet points… (Draws deep breath)… This was Federer’s 50th Grand Slam quarter-final (a record), his 89th match win at Wimbledon (a record), which earned him his 12th Wimbledon semi-final (a record), and his 42nd Grand Slam semi-final (a record). He even contributed to another record, by being among the five men over 30 in the quarter-finals here (an Open Era record).
For those wondering, the fact that this was his 100th match on the Wimbledon lawns counted merely as a personal landmark; ironically, however, it was not a record – although should he reach Sunday’s final, he will equal Jimmy Connors’ mark.
On a fitfully sunny Centre Court, Raonic got off to a textbook fast start, holding to love with a game in which he delivered a serve of 140mph. It looked like an excellent confidence-booster for a player hamstrung this year by – well, a hamstring problem, actually. But moments later he was fending off the Federer attack. At 2-2 a loose volley gave Federer an opening, and a really fabulous running crosscourt pass from the No.3 seed fooled Raonic at the net. Even by this early stage, Federer had amassed nine winners to zero errors, while the Canadian’s figures were 6-4. With ironic emphasis, Federer served out the opener with his fifth ace, having surrendered just three points on his delivery all set.
Raonic simply wasn’t converting enough of his first serves – his key weapon – into actual points on the board, and at the start of the second set the crisis deepened. The latest winner from the Federer forehand gave the Swiss the chance to breach right at the off, whereupon Raonic’s attempt to make Federer play a backhand drifted wide. With the Canadian’s signature lugubrious demeanour more dispirited than ever, at 1-3 he couldn’t reach a pass at the net, and the double break came up. If Raonic hadn’t got the message, Federer served out the set to love, with the clock still short of the hour mark.
All that was left to last year’s runner-up was to take a bathroom break, which he did at some leisure, adding a change of shoes on his return for good measure (something he likes to do every couple of sets in any match). A short rash of forehand mistakes from Federer gave Raonic a break point, but he couldn’t capitalise. At 4-3, though, he really threatened the Swiss serve, earning four separate break points, two of which were gorgeous stuff – a marvellous running crosscourt winner, and a punchy return.
But all four chances fell on stony ground – and perhaps that game ultimately was the most remarkably for witnessing the rarest of sights this Wimbledon, the Federer double fault. It was his second… not of the match, but of these Championships. Raonic pushed the set into the tiebreak, and edged ahead, but the Federer forehand struck again to devastating effect, pulling him back from 0-3 to 5-3. It was soon over.
As for all those records, at least one member of the Centre Court crowd was happy that Friday’s semi-final will not see Federer become the oldest man to reach the last four here in the Open Era. At the age of 35 years 342 days, he is a mere whippersnapper by comparison with Ken Rosewall, who was 39 years 246 days as runner-up to Jimmy Connors in 1974. Watching the Swiss youngster from the stands, Rosewall, now 82, has changed so little that he remains instantly recognisable.
There may be three semi-finalists at Wimbledon 2017 whom few had forecast, but with Rosewall in SW19 and Federer in the last four again, familiarity still has much to recommend it. There are some things hereabouts we never want to change.