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Old master Roger Federer through to semi-finals in four sets

Roger Federer shows some emotion on Centre Court
by Kate Battersby
Wednesday 2 July 2014

Just for a while on the Centre Court, it looked like Stan Wawrinka was making his own contribution to the Changing of the Guard at Wimbledon 2014. He was well on the road to compounding his hard-earned superiority over Roger Federer – gained only when Wawrinka won the Australian this year and usurped the legend to become Swiss No.1 – by beating Federer for the second time this year after 11 successive defeats. It wasn’t to be.

The composed Wawrinka of the first set gave way to a sickness-troubled version in the second, who could not get far enough in the tie-break to make it a two-set lead, which would have been a long way back even for his opponent. Instead Federer levelled, and the unprecedented bead of perspiration which had apparently emerged on Federer’s brow at the end of the first set disappeared. The man who seems never to perspire moved through his habitually elegant gears to win 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 to take his place in his 35th Grand Slam semi-final, where he will face Milos Raonic – a Slam semi debutant.

“Clearly what’s most visible when you see him [Raonic] play is that he’s got a big serve,” said Federer. “It keeps him in the match. Doesn’t matter almost how he plays his return game. I’ve played him where we basically didn’t have any rallies whatsoever. So here I’ll take care of my own serves and see what I can do on the return.”

In the quarter-final the crowd loved the drama when Wawrinka heroically saved four match points, but after two hours and 33 minutes they could not disguise their collective delight at the result. Wawrinka’s first set was met with polite but nakedly hesitant applause, while Federer’s comeback and victory had the Centre Court rocking. You could hear the familiar sound far beyond the boundaries of the All England Club – it’s the Federer Express, off the rails last year with his second round exit, but right back on track in 2014.

“There was a lot on the line in this match,” said Federer afterwards. “Midway through the second set I was thinking about the fact that it was Stan I was playing – a friend and compatriot. You want to win the match but you don’t necessarily want to beat him. That’s the odd part. He came out of the blocks unbelievably strong although I think he had physical issues at some point. I was able to take advantage of that. I was calm but nervous too that he would get back in the match.

“Now I’ve come through and I’m very happy. I can prepare well. It’s a comfortable place to be. I know there’s pressure but the confidence is there. You know there is a chance to go a step further because you trust your game. I’m really excited.”

It will be of little comfort to Wawrinka that this is still his best-ever Wimbledon in 10 visits, or that he was the first man this fortnight to relieve Federer of a set, or even that by winning a set he did more than he has in any of his previous three Slam encounters against the great man. Wawrinka had not previously lost to a top five player this year, but on the other hand he has never beaten a top five player on grass – and none of his 15 jousts against the seven-time Wimbledon champion had taken place on this surface.

Kudos to Wawrinka for being only the second Swiss man to reach the quarter-finals at all four Slams; had he won this match, he would have been again the second Swiss man to make the Wimbledon semis. Using your skill and judgement, try to work out the name of the first in both cases. Once this match started to turn against Wawrinka he seemed unable to fight back, whether sapped by sickness or the fact that rain delays meant this was his third match in as many days. Nothing very much will make Wawrinka feel better for some time.

“It was tough to play three days in a row, especially when the third match is against Roger,” he agreed. “I was not feeling great, but nothing I want or need to talk about. It was nice to play a countryman and friend because I’m playing my best game, and we’re playing for the first time in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. It’s special that we have known each other so many years and we are good friends. But it’s never easy to deal with that.

“I think it’s okay to lose on grass here against Roger. It’s just that after the match it’s always tough. I hope he wins it again this year. For sure he’s playing well enough. When Roger is in the semi-final of a Grand Slam, he’s ready to win it.”

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