This won't be Roger Federer's last shot at winning a major title, but it might just be his best.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion got past his friend Stan Wawrinka on Wednesday 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the Wimbledon semifinals, his second major semifinal of the year.
The only people standing in Federer's way right now are big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, stylish Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Novak Djokovic, who hasn't been in peak form during this tournament but is obviously still dangerous.
On Friday, Federer will take on 23-year-old Raonic for a chance to make his first major final since Wimbledon 2012, which he won. His string of seven Slams without an appearance in a final is his longest in 11 years.
FedererLive reveals that the father of four has now made 35 semifinals at Grand Slam tournaments:
Round by round, things have been shaping up nicely for the seven-time Wimbledon champion. He marched through his first four matches without dropping a set, and his serve wasn't broken until his first set against Wawrinka on Wednesday.
Additionally, upsets around him have certainly opened up his draw. Nineteen-year-old Nick Kyrgios took out Federer's projected semifinal opponent, Rafael Nadal, on Tuesday in their fourth-round encounter, and Dimitrov took out Andy Murray on Wednesday.
As Jacob Steinberg of The Guardian noted, everything this tournament seems to be falling in place for Federer:
Life could hardly be better for Roger Federer at the moment. He is the new father to a second set of twins, he appears determined to prove that he is still the king of grass and he will not have to play his tormentor-in-chief, Rafael Nadal, in the semi-finals on Friday. He would have taken that scenario if it had been offered to him at the start of the fortnight. ...
It will be a shock if Federer loses to Raonic but Wimbledon has seen a few this week, Kyrgios playing above his years against Nadal and Grigor Dimitrov dismantling Andy Murray. Yet Federer refused to succumb to the growing volatility, winning his all-Swiss quarter-final against Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The 32-year-old has a winning record over every opponent left in the draw, with a combined 23-16 advantage (all 16 of those losses came against Djokovic).
He leads the head-to-head 4-0 over semifinal opponent Raonic. However, it's important to note that most of their matches have been pretty tough ones. They met on grass two years ago in Halle, Germany. Federer won, but the match did go the distance, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(3). The 23-year-old is no pushover.
Still, the Canadian has never been this deep in a major before, and he's certainly never had this type of success on grass. In fact, Raonic was 9-10 on the surface before Wimbledon.
In three trips to the All England Club, he had never made it past the second round.
Federer, meanwhile, has won Wimbledon seven times and been in eight finals. He's 8-0 in Wimbledon semifinals and Centre Court might as well be located in Switzerland with the amount of crowd support he receives. With Murray out of the tournament, he will surely be the local favorite.
Raonic's serve will give Federer trouble, but Federer has a great record in his career against big-time servers.
The No. 8 seed is not a very versatile returner, so he likely won't put much pressure on Federer's serve. While the up-and-comer has drastically improved his groundstrokes and court movement this year, he's still nowhere near as comfortable as Federer is in rallies.
If Federer does get through Raonic, he will meet either Djokovic or Dimitrov in the final.
This is also Dimitrov's first major semifinal appearance, but the 23-year-old is a fast-rising star in the game. Federer beat him in their only match to date last fall, but it's hard to read too much into that since the No. 13-ranked player is so improved this year.
Nevertheless, the Bulgarian would certainly be an ideal opponent for Federer to face in a major final at this stage in his career.
Djokovic would naturally be the most difficult opponent in the final, but Federer did beat the Serb in their only meeting at Wimbledon back in the 2012 semifinals.
Open draw aside, the real reason this is Federer's best chance at an 18th Slam is because of how well he is playing. The grass clearly suits his game—he is one of the best grass-court players of all time—and with his body and mind in a great place this year, he's been showing some vintage form.
After last year's struggles, Federer told reporters he is feeling confident again:
"I’m just really pleased that I’m back strong this year at Wimbledon," said Federer, who suffered a shock second-round exit at the hands of Sergiy Stakhovsky in 2013. "Last year was such a disappointment. I was very deflated leaving Wimbledon on that note. It’s good to be back in the semis. The prospect is very exciting."
As he pushes 33, it's impossible for Federer to dominate the tour the way he did in his heyday. However, when he's healthy, he is still one of the best tennis players in the world.
Plus, the candidate for greatest of all time has suffered bad days on the tennis court too often over the past few years to take this opportunity for granted. He surely senses what a golden chance this is.
Right now, Federer is only six sets away from major No. 18.
Raonic, Dimitrov and especially Djokovic are not going to lay down and hand him the title, but these are certainly players that he can beat on Wimbledon's Centre Court.
We'll have to wait a few days to see, but it's possible that Federer's assault on the history books isn't over yet.
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