What a quarterfinal day at Wimbledon. With the Big 3 – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic – there were high hopes of another all-star semifinal with the greats of the game. But it wasn’t meant to be as Djokovic and Nadal both advanced, but Federer blew a third set match point and lost in five sets to the 6-foot-8 Kevin Anderson.
The day began with Djokovic and Federer split on both show courts. After much, alleged, lobbying Djokovic got his wish and was placed on Centre, at the expense of Federer who, for the first time since a 2015 quarterfinal against Gilles Simon, was out on Court 1.
But Federer didn’t look bothered by the new surroundings, grabbing an immediate break on Kevin Anderson and the Swiss cruised out to a set led. Anderson returned the favor breaking Federer early in the second, snapping the Federer’s 85-game service hold streak at Wimbledon. Federer got the break back and managed to sneak out the tiebreaker. Things were good for Federer.
And they looked even better when Federer held a matchpoint in the third during Anderson’s service game at 4-5. The South African held and Federer would never get that close to winning again. Anderson broke Federer, took the set, then got another break in the fourth to force a decider.
With Federer missing forehands and Anderson’s serve online and firing, the momentum was going with the underdog. Federer kept pressing but Anderson, who was 0-8 in sets against Federer at the start of the day, just wouldn’t cave and held his never, serving from behind all set. And eventually serving 11-all, Federer mixed in his first double fault of the day and then Anderson broke on the next point. He then served it out for the biggest win of his career 2-6, 7-6(5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11 in 4 hours, 14 minutes.
“The first set felt great,” said Federer. “[I was] reading the serve. He wasn’t getting many aces. When I was on, I was making him play. From the baseline I felt like I could mix it up and play aggressive. There was a lot going on.
“As the match went on, I couldn’t surprise him any more. That’s a bad feeling to have. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. I’ve been in many, many matches like this… I couldn’t come up with enough good stuff for him to miss more. I think that was the key at the end.”
Federer suffered his third loss in a Slam when up two sets following Tsonga at Wimbledon and Djokovic at the US Open, both in 2011.
”[It was] just a bad day from my side, except the first set,” added Federer. “After that, I never really felt exactly 100 per cent. That has nothing to do with my opponent. It was just one of those days where you hope to get by somehow. I could have. I should have.”
Anderson, who made the final at the US Open, was playing his first career Wimbledon quarterfinal.
“I have already gotten tons of messages from support back home,” said Anderson. “Obviously at this sort of event, playing against an opponent like Roger is going to have a lot of coverage. Again, I really hope it’s an example of sticking to your dreams and keep believing in yourself. I always say I was in the same position, it’s not easy coming from South Africa, it’s very far from the tennis scene…
“I felt the first set obviously wasn’t great for me,” said Anderson. “I was a little bit unsettled starting the match out. I thought I settled down much better in the second set. Even though I lost it in a tie-break, I felt I played a much, much better set of tennis.
“Obviously in the third set, I just tried to compete as hard as I could. I was able to hold serve throughout. Obviously [Federer] had that one match point, but I played a good point and was able to get that break. I feel like once I did that, I really settled down well and felt pretty comfortable out there.”
For Federer it was his earliest loss at Wimbledon in five years and snapped an 11-match win streak at the Club. He was trying to win his 9th Wimbledon and 99th career title. Both, now on hold.
“I think I had my chances, so it’s disappointing,” said Federer. “No doubt about it. He was consistent. He was solid. He got what he needed when he had to. Credit to him for hanging around really that long.”
Meanwhile, on Centre, Djokovic and Nishikori split the first two sets then the Japenese had chances to grab a lead in the third with Djokovic serving 2-all, 0-40, but the Serb turned on the jets and took 10 of the last 12 games to win it 6-3, 3-6. 6-2, 6-2.
“I think we were quite even until the middle of the third set, then I managed to step up and play up a gear,” said Djokovic who has now won 13 straight over Nishikori. “I ended this match really well.”
It’s Djokovic’s 8th time in the Wimbledon semifinal and first at a Slam since the 2016 US Open.
“I feel if I have to compare the game that I’ve played, the level of tennis that I’ve had those years and today, I think it’s pretty close,” said Djokovic. “I like the level of tennis that I’m playing right now. I really do. I think with the performances I’ve had, I deserve to be in the semi-finals. I don’t want to stop here. I hope I can get a chance to fight for a trophy.”
Nadal followed against Juan Martin del Potro and the match billed as the one to watch on the day lived up to the hype. Nadal won it in a bruising 4 hours, 48 minutes 7-5, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Points were long, games were long, sets were long and even the numerous falls were long as both players left it all on the court, slipping, sliding and tumbling to the turf.
“I am very happy the way that I survived a lot of important points in that fifth set,” said Nadal. “I think I did a lot of things well. I went to the net. In general terms, [it has] been a positive match. Only negative thing is I played almost five hours, and I had the chance maybe to play less winning that second set.
“For the rest of the things, great news, semifinals of Wimbledon again. Great match, emotional match for both of us and for the fans, too. Great feelings.”
Del Potro, who lost to Nadal in the semifinals of both the US Open and French, showed no signs of fatigue after playing Monday and Tuesday, powered his serve to 33 aces and cracked 77 winners but it wasn’t enough.
“Once Rafa breaks my serves, then the match becomes difficult for me,” said del Potro. “I had also my chances to break back in the fifth, and I missed some forehands. I think the key of the match was only three, four points in the end, and he took the chances.
“I think I played really good tennis today, but Rafa is Rafa, you know,” he added. “Sometimes you play your best tennis and it’s not enough to beat him. But I’m glad with my tournament. Physically I’m okay. That gives me confidence to keep going in the future.”
John Isner and Milos Raonic rounded out quarterfinal day and it was the American getting the win and a berth in his first Grand Slam semifinal 6-7(5), 7-6(7), 6-4, 6-3.
“Pure elation right now. Very, very happy to be in this position right now in the semifinals. With how I’m feeling physically and mentally, I’m in a very good spot. I think I can keep doing damage here,” Isner said. “This is amazing. It’s by far the best Grand Slam I’ve ever played in my career, and I’ve been playing for 11 years. I’m super happy. To do it here at Wimbledon makes it even a little bit more special.”
Rallies were few and far between (Isner did get the better of them) as both guys pounded serves (56 combined). Raonic had chances in the second set breaker to take a 2-set lead but failed to capitalise. And once Isner got the first break of the match in the third, he had his way with the Canadian who was treated early in the match for an upper leg injury which he would later call a possible muscle tear.
The men have the day off to recharge before the semifinals on Friday which will pit Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal and then big men John Isner against Kevin Anderson.
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