Wimbledon 2017: Roger Federer floors Tomas Berdych with point-perfect serve to earn shot at history

Q. Does it not worry you when you get a cold at your age that this could be the end?
Roger Federer: It's extremely scary times for me right now (smiling).

Q. For a very, very old man, you're moving beautifully.
Roger Federer: More compliments. Thank you. It's a nice press conference today.

These were some of the exchanges between the soon-to-be-36 Federer and the media earlier this Wimbledon. Even as the Swiss’ sense of humour is shining through more now, that he seems so relaxed and at peace with his game, the age jokes are gaining momentum since he is adding to the awe with each victory. There were times in the past four years when Federer was losing out on the close matches, losing to unlikely opponents. He was a man in his 30s trying really, really hard to replicate success and consistency of his golden years. It was still beautiful, and he was still making finals and pushing players much younger than him hard, but Federer went through years 2013, 2014, 2015 without a major.

Roger Federer will look to win a record eighth Wimbledon title on Sunday. AP

Roger Federer will look to win a record eighth Wimbledon title on Sunday. AP

Age was his enemy. Since the beginning of this year—when he beat his biggest rival Rafael Nadal for the Australian Open crowd-- it is highlighting his greatness.

The Swiss, a master at playing those big moments, has glided through the draw to make yet another final, his 11th, at Wimbledon. He subdued Tomas Berdych 7-6(4), 7-6(4), 6-4 in the semi-final on Friday to become the oldest finalist at Wimbledon since the 39-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1974.

And Federer has made the title clash without dropping a set. “It’s great to be in another final here,” he said, “Cannot always believe it’s true.”

In his last two rounds, he has beaten opponents who had scored unlikely victories over him at his beloved Centre Court. The big-hitting Berdych had scored a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Federer in the 2010 quarter-finals. At the time, Federer was defending the title and had lost only to Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon since 2002. On Wednesday, Federer beat Milos Raonic who had brought about his downfall last year’s semi-final. And he has made it look utterly easy.

While Federer always contended for the majors even in the past few years, what seems to have pushed him back in the Grand Slam winners’ circle is time away from the game. He took time off after Wimbledon last year, spending time with his family and exploring his country and posting goofy tweets. After winning the Australian Open and the Masters 1000 titles at Indian Wells and Miami, the Swiss gave the entire clay season, including the French Open, a miss.

After beating Berdych in the semi-final, Federer said, “I want to do things outside of tennis as well. I want to be a good father, a good husband, and then maybe someone who is good at tennis too.” He is having the time of his life, and it’s showing in his tennis. He is playing more aggressive, trusting his instincts a lot more.

The grass, especially on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, has always been a perfect canvas for his art. And Federer has painted some ridiculously bold strokes on it this summer.

But it was that point perfect serve that gave him the edge against Berdych. In the sixth game of the third set, after having won two close sets, Federer was in some trouble at 15-40 as he missed a lunging backhand volley. He followed that up with: ace wide, ace down the T, down the T service winner, ace down the T. He broke Berdych’s serve in the very next game to take lead, and he never did let go of it.

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

He had to bring good game to the clash against Berdych. The Czech can be lethal with his groundstrokes, especially the big forehand, when he gets into the hitting zone. But Federer kept him on the run, and kept him guessing. In the end, the third seed had reeled off 53 winners and made only 20 unforced errors.

Federer will reach for history once again in Sunday’s final. He made his first big impression on Wimbledon when he defeated the defending champion Pete Sampras in 2001. He is now level with the American, and William Renshaw in the amateur era, at seven titles each, and will hope to break free of them on Sunday.

Up against him is the 6’6 Marin Cilic, a former US Open champion but playing his first Wimbledon finals. The tall Croat, another aggressive baseliner, has the potential to blow opponents off the court. Federer had faced that baseline barrage in 2014 US Open semi-final, as Cilic beat him 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 en route his first and only major. At Wimbledon last year, Cilic had held three match points in the quarter-final against Federer.

“I'm in for a tough one,” said Federer of Sunday’s matchup. “We had a great one here last year. At the US Open, he played unreal there against me. I love this tournament. All my dreams came true here as a player. Unbelievably excited. I hope I can play one more good match.”

An 18-time Grand Slam champion, the most successful male player in the game and the greatest for some, Federer has nothing left to prove. But it is still interesting to see just how far he pushes his legend.

Updated Date: Jul 15, 2017 14:20 PM

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