Sublime Federer Outclasses Stubborn Berdych to Reach Final

Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates winning the semi final match against Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych. (Reuters Photo/Matthew Childs)

By : Martyn Herman & Pritha Sarkar | on 3:32 PM July 15, 2017
Category : Sports, Tennis

London. Roger Federer's relentless pursuit of a record eighth Wimbledon title continued as he fought off stubborn Czech Tomas Berdych 7-6(4) 7-6(4) 6-4 to reach the final for the 11th time on Friday (14/07).

The 35-year-old Swiss was given his toughest test yet by the 11th seed, who beat him at the quarter-final stage in 2010, but he raised his game at the crucial moments to become the oldest men's singles finalist here since Ken Rosewall in 1974.

Rosewall, then aged 39, went on to lose to Jimmy Connors but Federer will be a huge favorite to reclaim the title he last won in 2012 against big-serving Croatian Marin Cilic on Sunday.

Federer has now reached 29 grand slam finals and for the third time in his career has reach the Wimbledon final without dropping a set, having also achieved the feat in 2006 and 2008.

"I feel very privileged to be in another final," Federer, who received a standing ovation at the end, said.

"I've got the pleasure to play on Centre Court another time. I can't believe it's almost true again. I'm happy to have a day off to reflect on what I've done at the tournament."

Twelve months ago here Federer lost to Milos Raonic in the semi-finals - his legs looking heavy and the years finally appearing to catch up with him - but this year he has rolled back the clock in glorious fashion.

Major Prizes

He now is one-match away from holding two of the game's major four prizes for the first time since 2010 having begun the year by claiming the Australian Open title.

Berdych, who reached the semi-final after second seed Novak Djokovic retired hurt in the quarters, spent a diligent two hours and 18 minutes at the coalface on Friday.

But while 31-year-old toiled with his muscular game it was the dashing Federer who supplied the gems.

Federer, contesting a record 12th Wimbledon semi-final, broke serve in the fifth game when he ran Berdych ragged before whipping a ball out of the air into the corner.

Out of nowhere Berdych broke back for 4-4 when Federer - to gasps from the crowd - double-faulted at break point down.

Berdych's best chance of shaking Federer out of his silky rhythm was to grab the opening set but a terrible forehand at 3-4 in the subsequent tiebreak allowed Federer breathing space which he used to clinch the opener.

Tennis has seen few better front-runners than Federer and while Berdych manfully stayed with his opponent in the second set he never was able to apply any real pressure.

His only chance came when he had Federer 15-40 down at 2-3 but, as great champions do, the Swiss responded with a couple of slide-rule aces to avert the danger.

Three consecutive forehand winners gave a ruthless Federer control of the second set tiebreak as he moved two sets clear.

Berdych refused to throw in the towel and had break points at 3-3 in the third set, only for Federer to fling down three aces to finally break his rival's spirit.

The end came quickly as Federer broke in the next game and he sealed victory, his 90th at the All England Club, when Berdych netted a forehand, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd who simply cannot get enough of the Swiss history-maker.

Rosewall Compliment

While 14,999 spectators were left wonderstruck as they watched Roger Federer reach the Wimbledon final a month short of his 36th birthday, there was one man on Centre Court who could have shouted out "been there, done that, got the t-shirt".

Anyone even remotely acquainted with Ken Rosewall, however, knows that simply isn't the style of one of the great gentlemen of the game.

Instead, the 82-year-old Australian was as awestruck as anybody on Friday as he sat with his grandson in the royal box watching Federer beat Tomas Berdych to become the oldest men's singles finalist here since Rosewall in 1974.

"I'm like millions of others. I admire Roger so much," Rosewall told Reuters in an interview.

"I think he's going to be a force in tennis for a few more years."

As Federer continues to defy the ravages of age with his remarkable run this year - winning an 18th major title in Melbourne in January and now on the cusp of a record eighth Wimbledon title - the comparisons with Rosewall are inevitable.

"I'd like to be compared to Roger," Rosewall said with a laugh.

"I was playing some of my best tennis at 35. Roger's doing the same thing. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't continue for at least another two or three years."

Federer still has some way to go if he is to match the longevity of Rosewall's incredible career as the Australian was 39 when he lost the 1974 final to brash youngster Jimmy Connors.

Despite that letdown, Rosewall has retained the title of the oldest men's grand slam champion in the professional era for 45 years after lifting the 1972 Australian Open trophy at the age of 37.

"If anyone is to break it, I won't be sorry to see the record go to somebody like Roger," added Rosewall, who was in London to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Wimbledon Pro event.

Rosewall won four of his eight grand slam titles after turning 30 and makes no bones about why he kept leading such a nomadic life for so long.

"I was 33 when Open tennis came in ... I was still enjoying the tennis and I was playing well," said Rosewall

"I still felt I was a strong force in winning events... and the chance to play for prize money, that was the main motivation."

"Door Stoppers"

Money, which Rosewall now keeps neatly folded in a 14 carat gold paper clip he was awarded for winning the 1969 U.S. Open doubles title, played a significant role in his tennis career.

Unlike the champions of today who are used to banking seven-figure sums in prize money from the slams, Rosewall started off in the 1950s when he played for kudos and little else.

Tennis Australia would pay his on-road expenses and a per diem but there was no money for winning grand slams, merely "big bronze stumps" of trophies that would end up "being used as door stoppers".

All that changed when Rosewall beat his great friend Rod Laver to triumph at the French Open in 1968, the first time a grand slam had opened its gates to professionals.

While it meant that Rosewall could compete in the majors again without worrying about financial security, his long absence from the grand slams after he turned professional in 1957 raises a question that can never be answered.

"I believe I could have won another 10 more slams. But who knows? It's too hard to tell," said Rosewall.

"I developed my game so that I could play well on any surface. And in those days three of the grand slam events were on grass. In Sydney, where I grew up, I learnt to play on claycourts.

"I missed 44 slams over 11 years after I turned pro and I missed playing at Wimbledon ... in 72 and ... 73, so that’s 46.

"But I don’t think I would have played that many, because if I had I would have been dead!"

Rosewall, who is left-handed but switched to playing right-handed at his father's behest, cut his opponents down to size by "swinging away the backhand shots" despite being only 5 feet 7 inches tall.

Nicknamed "Muscles" because of his lack of them, Rosewall sometimes wishes he could have faced some of the greats of the modern era and would have "loved to have tried my chances against Roger".

There is one aspect of playing in the 1950s that he would never swap, however.

"In the amateurs there was a lot of camaraderie with the players," said Rosewall, who was part of tight-knit group that included Laver, Fred Stolle and the late Lew Hoad.

"There was a lot more friendship and togetherness. We travelled together, we ate together, we stayed in the same hotel ... People would ask 'how can you be so competitive in the matches because you spend so much time together? But that's the way we were. Even with so many years gone, we're still friends.'"


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