For a straight-set win it was awfully tough, but Roger Federer is into his 11th Wimbledon final, a men’s record for any of the four Grand Slams.
Seeking his eighth title at Wimbledon and first since 2012, Federer alternated brilliant and shaky form for much of the afternoon on Centre Court against a game Tomas Berdych, ultimately winning 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4), 6-4. The 18-time Grand Slam champion was visibly frustrated with his inconsistency, yet came up with critical first serves and sublime winners at important moments in the match.
It is Federer’s third time reaching the Wimbledon final without dropping a set. In 2006, he went on to win the title in four sets against Rafael Nadal, while in 2008, he lost to Nadal over five sets in what many consider the greatest match of all-time.
Federer is bidding to join Bjorn Borg (1976) as the only men in the Open Era to win Wimbledon unblemished. He could also join Borg and Nadal (who have three each) as the only men in the Open era to win multiple Slams without dropping a set. Federer previously did so at the 2007 Australian Open.
With his clutch play in the tiebreakers against Berdych, Federer improved to 8-0 career in breakers in Wimbledon semifinals. He now stands 11-1 in those matches, only losing last season to Milos Raonic. For the curious, he is 13-3 in tiebreakers in finals, splitting two of them in the 2006 victory as well as the 2014 and 2015 losses against Novak Djokovic.
In his 11th final, he will face a familiar foe in Marin Cilic, who overcame Sam Querrey over four tight sets in the first semifinal of the day.
The two have met seven times, all either at Grand Slams or Masters events. Their past two meetings are the most notable, with Cilic scoring his only win against Federer at the 2014 U.S. Open, when Federer was expected to win the event until a red-hot Cilic simply took the racquet out of his hands en route to the title. Their only clash since then came at Wimbledon last year, where Cilic led by two sets before Federer came back to tally the final win of his injury-shortened season.
Given his recent history with Cilic and the lack of complacency he showed with his game against Berdych, it’s safe to say Federer will not take his final challenge lightly.