When the Wimbledon men’s bracket came out, a set of potentially mouth-watering semifinals was lined up: Defending champion Andy Murray could have faced two-time champ Rafael Nadal in one matchup, while seven-time winner Roger Federer was drawn to meet three-time champion Novak Djokovic in the other.
But as the fortnight heads into the semifinals on Friday, the soon-to-be-36-year-old Federer is the last member of the “Big 4” standing.
On the same day that both Murray and Djokovic exited the lawns at Wimbledon, Federer cruised into the semifinals via a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(4) victory over Milos Raonic, the big-serving Canadian who had ousted Federer in last year’s semifinals. Federer has reached this year’s semifinals without dropping a set and is now just two wins away from his eighth Wimbledon title and his 19th Grand Slam crown. Federer’s latest run comes the same year as 37-year-old Venus Williams is into the women’s semis and seeking her sixth Wimbledon crown, while her younger sister Serena is pregnant and off the women’s tour.
“I’m very happy that my body kept me going over all these years,” Federer told the BBC after the match. “It was great and I’m just so, so happy to be in another semi here.”
Into the semi-finals without dropping a set.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 12, 2017
Federer, the No. 3 seed, will now play No. 11 Tomas Berdych in the semis — and not Djokovic — after Djokovic retired after just an hour due to an apparent elbow injury. Djokovic was trailing 7-6(2), 2-0 to a man he had dominated in the past. Djokovic held a career 25-2 record against Berdych heading into Wednesday’s match.
Djokovic received treatment on his right shoulder during his fourth-round win over Adrian Mannarino on Tuesday and was then forced to come back and play the quarterfinal the following day. His match against Mannarino was pushed to Tuesday from Monday after Nadal lost to Giles Muller in a match that lasted nearly five hours on Wimbledon’s No. 1 Court. Tournament organizers had the opportunity to put the Djokovic-Mannarino match on roof-equipped Centre Court Monday evening, but they refused, citing crowd safety concerns.
After winning four straight Grand Slam titles culminating in last year’s French Open, Djokovic has now failed to win his last five.
Djokovic’s exit from the tournament was the second shocker of the day, after Murray, the No. 1 seed and two-time champion, was stunned by American Sam Querrey, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-1. Querrey, who last year took out another No. 1-ranked player — Djokovic — in the third round, becomes the first American since Andy Roddick in 2009 to reach a Slam semifinal.
Querrey will face Marin Cilic in the other semifinal after the Croat outlasted Muller, 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-5, 5-7, 6-1.
“We always knew the danger was there for either one of us,” Federer said. “I hope that Novak’s OK with his injury because I saw he retired. Rafa fought till the very end. And Andy also wasn’t looking very good at the end with his injury that he has been carrying. So I hope for Andy and Novak that they will recover in time for the American summer and play their hearts out over there. And Rafa, I’m convinced that he will be back very strong so it’s unfortunate that they don’t go on but there’s other great stories in the tournament.”
Murray’s hip injury, referenced by Federer, became fully apparent in the fifth set of his loss to Querrey. Murray used drop shots early in points, a highly irregular sight in the power-attrition world of modern men’s tennis. No elite player in good health would do what Murray did. Djokovic was not the only player to suffer on quarterfinal Wednesday.
Federer, having noted the unfortunate developments affecting his foremost rivals, pivoted to the three players who will join him in Friday’s semifinals.
“I predicted that Cilic could have a very deep run here at Wimbledon and he’s proving to do so. Gilles Muller’s story I thought was incredible, and Querrey he already beat Djokovic here last year. So credit for him to do it again. And Berdych, he’s been here in the finals and he’s a good friend of mine so it’s nice to see different guys maybe but I’m happy that my dream run continues and we’ll see now what happens next.”
What happens next is Federer will play Berdych, against whom he is 18-7 and has won seven straight matches. Federer will be a favorite in that match and the favorite to win the whole thing.
Grand Slam semifinals/finals/titles:
9/4/1 Roger Federer since turning 32
10/2/0 All men born 1989 or later, combined careers
— Carl Bialik (@CarlBialik) July 12, 2017
He is 6-1 against Cilic and 3-0 versus Querrey.
“I’m very pleased with how I’m playing,” he said. “You can always play a little bit better but you can definitely also play much worse… It’s like going to work, you can’t produce the best every single day but you have [to] make sure that your average is as high as possible every single day, and I think I’m doing a great job this week.”
Adam Zagoria is a basketball and tennis insider who has run ZAGSBLOG.com since 2006. He is a college basketball and tennis contributor for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the co-host of The Four Quarters Podcast via VSporto.com, which is available via iTunes. Zagoria is also a contributor to The New York Times. He currently lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.