When Roger Federer slumped to 0-5 down in the opening set tiebreak of his quarter-final clash with Marin Cilic it seemed the 34-year-old’s golden chance at a record eighth Wimbledon title was set to be snuffed out. Even more so when he went two sets down and had to fend off match points in the fourth.
But even in the twilight of his remarkable career, Federer has showed that he still has what it takes to dig deep and win. It’s a trait that hasn’t always been evident in recent years.
However, on the hallowed grounds of the All England Club one of Wimbledon’s favourite sons produced a masterclass performance to secure a come-from-behind victory; no, Roger Federer will not go quietly.
Cilic had his chances to close out the match, but as the Croat struggled – he couldn’t buy a second serve return by the end of it – Federer pushed the ninth seed harder and harder until the victory was his.
“It was about staying in the match,” said Federer, “somehow hoping for his level to drop a little bit, and a get a little lucky, and that’s exactly what happened.
“I knew I was in so much trouble in the third set and the fourth…I fought well and played super great at the end.”
Cilic may have a grand slam title to his name, one he had to beat Federer to get, but Centre Court is Federer’s backyard, and he demonstrated again why he is king at SW19.
And it’s at Wimbledon that Federer is likely to have his last chance to win his 19th grand slam title. While the hard courts of Australia and Flushing Meadows, and the quick clay of Roland Garros are no longer suited to Federer’s aging body, he still manages to glide around the grass court like a player a decade younger. Then there is the small matter of Novak Djokovic’s absence…
A player of Federer’s experience will not be lulled into a false sense of security though – there is still much work to be done. And that starts with Friday’s semi-final against another big server in Milos Raonic. Federer will be well aware that while he has never lost in the last four at Wimbledon and made light work of the Canadian at the same stage two years ago, the last time he came from two sets down at a grand slam was against Gaël Monfils at the US Open in 2014. He would be trounced by Cilic in the next round.
The lines are fine in professional sport, a loss on Wednesday would have been a very bitter pill to swallow while instead the 20-point fourth set tiebreaker stands out as a defining moment in another piece of Federer magic. The Swiss maestro now stands just two wins away from what would be an incredible 19th grand slam title; long may the fairy tale continue.