Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka took an early lead in a Swiss showdown at Wimbledon Wednesday, but fourth-seeded Roger Federer ultimately came out on top 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals at the All England Club.
According to ESPN Tennis, reaching the semis at a Grand Slam has become old hat for Federer at this point:
Federer entered this tournament in search of his eighth Wimbledon title and 18th Grand Slam championship overall. With Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray suffering early exits, his chances have improved dramatically.
Although Federer's play has been somewhat inconsistent at Grand Slams after so many years of dominance, it could have easily been argued ahead of Wednesday's match that he was the most impressive among the "Big Four" at Wimbledon thus far.
Fed hadn't dropped a set prior to the quarterfinals and seemed confident in his ability to keep the positive momentum going, per ATPWorldTour.com:
I feel like my game's right there. It's important to keep it up and not have any major let downs or minor hiccups. I need to be really focused out there. I'm able to do that. I'm healthy. Things are exactly where I want them to be. But I'm only in the quarterfinals and that's where the tournament really starts.
With Nadal and Murray bowing out of Wimbledon in the 24 hours leading up to Federer's quarterfinal encounter with Wawrinka, the potential of another upset had to be in the back of his mind. It could just have easily been negated by the fact that Federer was playing on a very special anniversary, though, according to ESPN's Chris McKendry:
13 yrs ago today, 19 yr old Federer beat 7X Wimbledon champ Pete Sampras in round of 16 ending Sampras 31-match wining streak at Wimbledon.— Chris McKendry (@CMCKENDRY_ESPN) July 2, 2014
After cruising through the first four rounds of the tournament without much of a challenge, Federer was metaphorically punched in the face by Wawrinka in the first set. His friend and Swiss countryman clearly came to play as he was able to expose Fed early.
When Wawrinka broke Federer to take a 3-1 lead, it ended the Wimbledon legend's run of perfection on serve, per the tourney's official Twitter account:
On Centre Court, Roger Federer drops serve for the 1st time this tournament as Stan Wawrinka takes a 3-1 lead in the opening set #Wimbledon— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 2, 2014
Wawrinka certainly gained some momentum from that as he played with the utmost confidence throughout the opening set. Wawrinka ultimately finished the set off at 6-3 due largely to his aggressiveness and ability to hit decisive shots, per ESPN.com's Steve Tignor:
Wawrinka closes out 1st set over Federer 63 with a bullet forehand winner, 10th winner of set. #Wimbledon2014— Steve Tignor (@SteveTignor) July 2, 2014
Federer didn't necessarily play poorly in the first set, but it was quite evident that he needed to impose his will and refrain from being submissive if he intended to equalize the match in the second.
All it took was one break for Wawrinka to turn the tide in the first set, but neither player wilted on serve in the second. With six holds apiece, the second set went to a crucial tiebreak that would either give Wawrinka firm control or get Federer back in it.
The latter ultimately proved to be true.
Federer built a big lead in the tiebreak and was able to hang onto it. He dipped into the archives a bit in order to do so by executing a perfect serve and volley to take the set, according to Tennis.com:
Federer serves-and-volleys on second serve, third set point, to take tiebreaker. Level at a set all with Wawrinka.— TENNIS.com (@Tennis) July 2, 2014
That particular play was so effective that Nick Nemeroff of Tennis View Mag believed Wawrinka could potentially be leaving himself vulnerable to it:
The reliable serve and volley gets it done for Federer. Great play to use against Stan's chip returns. Holds him accountable.— Nick Nemeroff (@NNemeroff) July 2, 2014
There was a palpable feeling that Wawrinka needed to win that second-set tiebreak in order to break Federer's confidence. He was unable to do that and Fed predictably continued to gain momentum throughout the third set.
The turning point in the third came when Federer was finally able to break Wawrinka for the first time in the match. That turned out to be the difference as Federer went on take the set 6-4 and pulled to within one set of the semifinals.
Federer hadn't shown a ton of emotion during the match to that point, but he appeared to fully understand the importance of the break when he finally secured it, per SI Tennis:
Great forehand pass from Federer sets up break point and he converts. He leads 4-3 in the third set. Vocal and fired up.— SI Tennis (@SI_Tennis) July 2, 2014
As Tennis Now points out, Fed punctuated the third set in much the same way he did the second:
The maestro finished the second set off with a serve-and-volley, and he does so again to close the third, 6-4. Federer leads two sets to one— TennisNow (@Tennis_Now) July 2, 2014
With the tide clearly turned in Federer's favor, Wawrinka struggled to regain his footing within the match. Fed was able to convert an early break in the third set, which left Wawrinka playing catch-up until the bitter end.
According to Craig O'Shannessy of The New York Times, Wawrinka didn't appear to have a comeback in him:
Federer got stronger as the match went on, while Wawrinka faded. Some might blame that on the fact that Wawrinka had to play three straight days, but Chiara Gambuzza of Tennis World Italia didn't view it as a significant factor:
It's true.Wawrinka had to play 3 days in a row and it's not fair but on Monday he played for 1h20 minutes.So,not a big deal.— chiara gambuzza (@ChiaraGamTWI) July 2, 2014
With Federer serving for the match at 5-4, Wawrinka did manage to earn a break-point opportunity. Federer erased it, though, and went on to win a high-level affair in four sets.
This win is certainly huge for Federer since it puts him in the semifinals, but the fact that he was able to come from behind makes it even sweeter. Federer didn't face much adversity prior to Wednesday's match, but he proved that going down early doesn't negatively impact him.
Federer will now go on to face the winner of a match between two big-serving youngsters in Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios. Either would be a challenge for Federer due to their power games, but Fed would be a big favorite as a seven-time Wimbledon champion.
The fact that Nadal fell to Kyrgios was huge for Federer since Rafa has long been a thorn in his side at the All England Club. Per Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph, Nadal getting ousted has created an ideal situation for Federer:
He would never say it but I bet Roger Federer was the happiest man at Wimbledon when Nadal went out.— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) July 2, 2014
How will Federer ultimately fare at Wimbledon 2014?
Provided Federer is able to reach the final, he will take on either Novak Djokovic or the fast-rising Grigor Dimitrov, who upset defending Wimbledon champion Andy Murray. Federer beat Dimitrov in their only meeting and he is 18-16 against Djoker, so either matchup would be intriguing.
Wimbledon has always been Federer's best Grand Slam and this could represent his final chance to win a major title now that he is 32 years of age. If Djokovic is beaten by Dimitrov, he could potentially win this tournament without playing a single member of the "Big Four."
Some might claim that Federer has lucked out and will back into a title if that comes to fruition, but they all count the same. Fed has earned his way to this point with spectacular play and it wouldn't be a stretch to consider him the favorite.
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