Roger Federer has recently been in the Grand Slam wilderness by his own lofty standards. Generally considered as the best tennis player of all-time with 16 major tournament wins to his name, Federer set an incredible record of 23 straight semi-final, or better, performances in grand slam tournaments from 2004 to 2010. That run ended with his last major tournament win when he held the Australian Open trophy aloft in January 2010. That was over two and half years ago. At that stage no-one could imagine that Federer would be without a major trophy for so long.
This is mainly due to Novak Djokovic. The Serb has improved from a consistent world number three player to top of the rankings, pushing Federer down in the process. Going into Friday’s semi-final, the Serbian was the heavy favourite but Federer took confidence by the fact that had never lost a Wimbledon semi-final. He transported us back to this trophy laden era with superb tennis. Federer took the opening set 6-3, before Djokovic won the second by the same score. At 4-4 in the third set, Federer saved a break point and took advantage of his own break point to win 6-4. Moving into the fourth set, he had a commanding 4-1 lead but, in the past, that has meant nothing against a resilient world number one. After all, Federer was match point up against Djokovic in the last two US Open semi-finals, only for Djokovic to come back and win those matches.
In the sixth game of the fourth set, Djokovic was serving at 0-40. One more point was required to make it 5-1 and relatively safe. But then the Serb saved three breaks points and won the game to make it 2-4. Although Federer was his usual cool self, others hoped that this would not spring Djokovic into life. Their hopes were answered and the remainder of the set went with serve, with Federer winning 6-3.
Federer now makes his first Wimbledon final since 2009 when he beat Andy Roddick to win his sixth Wimbledon crown. One Wimbledon title behind record holder Pete Sampras, Federer will be desperate to equal Pistol Pete’s record increasing his record to 17 major wins in the process.
Standing in the way on Sunday, will be Andy Murray, who came through a four-setter himself against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray becomes the first Briton to play in the men’s singles final in 74 years (Bunny Austin in 1938 was a losing finalist). The last British man to win the singles title at Wimbledon was Fred Perry in 1936.
The Scot burst out of the blocks to go into a two set lead, winning 6-3 and 6-4. Tsonga reduced the deficit by taking the third set 6-3 after powering his way to a 4-1 lead. A comeback looked to be on the cards. The fourth set was tight but Murray broke Tsonga’s serve at 6-5 to wrap up the match resulting in euphoria on Mount Murray.
Following his win, Murray said in usual monotone manner, “Bit of relief, excitement, it’s tough to explain. It was such a close match.” He added, “It will be one of the biggest matches of my life. I’ve had experience against Roger in the final of Slams before. I’ll use that to my advantage, learn from my mistakes. It’s obviously going to be a very tough match. He’s playing great.”
Sunday will be Murray’s fourth major final. He will be craving that Wimbledon becomes the scene where he wins that first, elusive major title. He does have a favourable 8-7 head to head record against the Swiss maestro but, tellingly, they have only met twice in Grand Slams which Federer won convincingly in straight sets (2008 US Open final and 2010 Australian Open final).