Roger Federer Loses at Wimbledon, Maybe for the Last Time
WIMBLEDON, England – If this was the end for Roger Federer at Wimbledon, it seemed far from appropriate.
He enchanted so much on center court, tennis’s most famous lawn, but on Wednesday the magic was lacking as he shot forehands, misjudged volleys and, in the strangest moments, struggled with his balance. and his footwork.
He’s won and lost thrillers against the greats in the game at the All England Club: Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
But in that quarter-final he was beaten, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-0, in just one hour and 49 minutes by Hubert Hurkacz, a rising Polish player who had never passed third. round in any Grand Slam Event until this tournament.
Federer, 39 and playing in post-operative lap, has not confirmed that this is his last appearance at Wimbledon, but he has also not ruled out the possibility.
“I’m actually very happy to have come as far as I’ve come here and I was able to play Wimbledon at the level I’ve done after everything I’ve been through,” said Federer. “Of course I would love to play it again, but at my age you are never sure what to expect.”
Federer, a student of the game who won a record eight men’s titles at Wimbledon, knows full well that happy endings are not guaranteed on grass or any other surface. His childhood models Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg and Sampras all came out early in their last Wimbledon.
“It’s not a lot of fun,” Federer said of Wednesday’s lopsided loss. “But I’ve been through so many amazing things here that it’s okay. It’s part of the game.
Wimbledon will move forward this year without him, and Friday’s semi-finals will pit No. 1 Djokovic against No. 10 Denis Shapovalov; and Hurkacz, 14th seed, against No.7 Matteo Berrettini.
Djokovic, five-time Wimbledon champion and still in contention for the Grand Slam this season, beat Marton Fucsovics 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday to underline his status as a big favorite. The other semi-finalists have never advanced so far at Wimbledon. Shapovalov, a Canadian southpaw with a real arm and flashy play, won the most convincing match of the quarter-finals, rallying to defeat 25th Karen Khachanov 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6 -4. Barrel-breasted Italian Berretini with plenty of power, beat Shapovalov compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.
But the big surprise came from Hurkacz, a good-humored Pole who is based at Saddlebrook Academy in Wesley Chapel, Fla., And who has an American trainer, Craig Boynton. The two had to recover from contracting Covid-19 this spring after Hurkacz won the Miami Open in April.
“It hit me hard,” Boynton said. “But for Hubie, it was just enough for a swing.”
Hurkacz didn’t miss a tournament, but he fell apart before arriving at Wimbledon, losing six straight matches, including one to Dominic Stricker, a Swiss teenager who is taking his first steps on tour.
On Wednesday, Hurkacz dominated Switzerland’s most famous citizen. Federer, who was seeded sixth at Wimbledon, has long been Hurkacz’s tennis idol, and in their only previous singles match, Federer beat him 6-4, 6-4 in the quarter-finals of the ‘Open BNP Paribas in Indian Wells, California, 2019.
But a quarterfinal at Wimbledon is a much bigger opportunity, and Hurkacz, to his credit, handled the moment with controlled power and poise.
“Obviously I was a little nervous,” said Hurkacz. “I mean playing Roger in the Grand Slam quarter-finals is something very important to me. But I was trying to stay as calm as possible.
He and Boynton spoke at length before the mental game match. “When you play Roger, you are not only playing Roger but the aura of Roger,” Boynton said. “You play the fans, and I wanted to hammer home the fact that no one wants to see Roger leave or say goodbye, so there will be a lot of noise and a lot of cheering.”
Federer said he will take some time to determine whether he will compete in the Tokyo Olympics. As usual, he will consult at length his coaches Ivan Ljubicic and Severin Lüthi and his physical trainer Pierre Paganini.
“I said everything is waiting for the end of Wimbledon,” Federer said. “Wimbledon is over now. I haven’t made a decision yet where we’re going from here.
He first played at Wimbledon in 1998, winning men’s singles and doubles titles, and became a star in 2001 when he upset Sampras in the fourth round in his first match on center court. In 2003, he won his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, beating Mark Philippoussis in the final.
Although Federer is Swiss, Wimbledon has long felt like home with the largely British crowd warming to his elegant play and low-key presence on the pitch. He had great success here but also great disappointment. In the 2008 final, he lost to young rival Nadal in one of the best matches ever. In the 2019 final, he couldn’t convert two match points en route to a loss against Djokovic.
The match, one of the most deflating of his long career, could have been his last at Wimbledon. Instead, he chose to play despite two knee surgeries in 2020 and a long hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic.
Returning to Wimbledon was his biggest motivation as he struggled to readjust, and although he was the oldest man since Australian Ken Rosewall in 1977 to reach the quarter-finals, he couldn’t not go any further.
“I felt very disappointed with the moment itself.” said Federer. “I always am. At the same time, there is always a weight falling off your shoulders when a tournament is over, when a huge goal is scored or missed. It doesn’t matter actually. You feel like the weight is gone and you are exhausted.
Although Federer has long made tennis seem easy, that was not the case on Wednesday. Although he often slipped on the grass like it was a dance floor, it felt as slippery to him as it has been to many others over the past 10 days.
After losing the first set, he failed to maintain a 4-1 lead in the second, missing his shots and not consistently coming back on Hurkacz’s first serve. He ended the game with 18 unforced errors on his forehand and only won 35% of his points on second serve.
Hurkacz, 24, like Federer, is an all-terrain player with good volleys. He also has big serve and flat base power that helps keep the ball low on the grass. But it was still a shock to see Federer lose in straight sets at Wimbledon for the first time in 19 years.
The tiebreaker in the second set was decisive. Hurkacz started off with a fast-twitch forehand winning over Federer’s serve. At 2-2, Federer missed a forehand volley into the net and by the next point he was in control but missed another high volley after his right foot slipped across the grass.
Hurkacz closed the tiebreaker and calmly ate a banana before winning the third set in just 29 minutes.
As Federer faded, the center court loyalists who had cheered him on for so long became more urgent in their support.
“You got that!” a fan shouted as Federer descended another breaking point.
The more desperate began to applaud Hurkacz’s groundstroke mistakes, and there was even some applause for one of Hurkacz’s first missed serves, a rarity at Wimbledon.
But these extraordinary measures were of little use. Federer’s increasingly frequent blunders prompted gasps that turned to sighs as the crowd grew resigned to the outcome.
“You’re feeling good?” a fan shouted as Federer chose not to challenge a close call, 0-4.
There was a loud standing ovation as Federer entered the line to serve, 0-5, with many fans standing. But five points later, it was over as Federer missed his last wide forehand. He quickly sullied his bags and waved the crowd with a brief pirouette before leaving the grass and heading back to the clubhouse, head tilted slightly and a bag slung over each shoulder.
“One more year! One more year!” one fan pleaded as he disappeared from view.
It will be up to Federer, who turns 40 in August.
Ben rothenberg contributed reports.
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