Roger Federer had never lost a semifinal at Wimbledon. Until today.
As pristine as the white attire, his 10-0 record was the best in the game. Until today.
“This one clearly hurts. I could have had it. I was so, so close,” Federer said, Wimbledon’s website tweeted.
The loss — 6-3, 6-7(3), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 — to Milos Raonic, the first Canadian man to reach a major final, broke the hearts of millions of fans. Yet, it ushered in to a major final the first next-generation man born in the 1990s.
“Incredible comeback,” Raonic said to the BBC. “Was struggling through the third and fourth sets and I managed to turn it around.”
Federer seemed to have the match on his racquet. He was ‘so, so close.’ Up 40-0 in the fourth set and poised to send the set to a tiebreak … the maestro’s miracles stopped dead in their tracks.
He double faulted twice to 40-30. Then, he double faulted again … deuce.
Raonic’s eyes widened; he smelled opportunity. He blistered forehand cross-court returns; swatted winners left and right. On the third set point, Federer badly miscalculated a return and Milos wound it up the line for the set. On to the fifth.
Federer later said the double faults were ‘unexplainable.’
Raonic, though, having failed against Roger in the 2014 semifinal at Wimbledon never lost his belief, even when the set’s momentum stood on the other side of the net. He’d improved over the two years in mind and body in these departments.
“He’s been impressive in this set,” Darren Cahill said about Raonic, on ESPN. “He’s stepped up and has thrown everything he has as Federer.”
“If you can stand up to Federer on Centre Court, you can stand up to anyone,” Chris Fowler, alongside Cahill, exclaimed.
The final set was a pressure pot for both Raonic and Federer.
Federer had to hold serve, not let the monstrous 130+ MPH ones overwhelm him or get out of control. Raonic had to finish off a proven champion.
But Federer slipped and fell as he changed direction mid-court, scrambling to get across the lawn in anticipation of a follow-up shot from his opponent. He landed face down, hesitated to get up as if injured or, perhaps, humiliated.
“I don’t slip much on court. I don’t fall,” he told the press later. “I don’t think it’s bad, but in light of things this year it’s a worry. Have to wait until tomorrow.”
Federer chugged to the sideline, where a trainer massaged his upper left thigh. He came back out and won the next point, yet double faulted again to give Raonic the advantage. Finally after a close encounter of the net kind, Raonic beat Federer at his own cat-and-mouse game to go up the break of all breaks in the Canadian’s career.
The reigns were firmly in Raonic’s hands. It was the biggest moment of his career. Would he flinch? Get shaky hands?
Not a chance.
- Point 1 — Unreturnable serve at 142 MPH, 15-0
- Point 2 — Ace, 30-0
- Point 3 — Unreturnable serve, 40-0
- Point 4 — Served wide, hit the return wide to Federer’s forehand. Federer missed cross-court forehand.
“Stone cold closing,” Fowler yelled.
“I hope to be back on Centre Court, to be very clear,” Federer said. “[But] it was a very disappointing end to the match for me.”
“I’m by no means done,” Raonic told the BBC when asked how he felt about his win.
Somehow you believe him. The six-foot-five Raonic connected with 75 winners and 40 unforced errors. Federer was 49 and 14. It’s a positive comparison but inconsequential. He lost today. Raonic hit 11 double faults to Federer’s 5. Same conclusion … Federer lost.
“Eventually you have to break through, then things fall in place,” Federer told the BBC. “I wish him well.”
Raonic will face Andy Murray in the final, after the Scot whipped up on Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the second semifinal of the day. It will be Murray’s third consecutive major final of the year and third Wimbledon final. Murray has a 6-3 record over Raonic, recording his most recent victory at Queen’s Club two weeks prior. Murray won Wimbledon for the first and only time in 2013. The hopes of a nation rest on his shoulders.