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Can Roger Federer become the oldest man in the modern era to win tennis’ most revered trophy?
Federer, 34, who has won Wimbledon seven times, became the oldest man to reach the semifinals of the tournament since 39-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1974. The oldest man to win Wimbledon in the modern era was Arthur Ashe, who was 31 when he defeated Jimmy Connors in 1975.
The odds were against Federer after the first two sets of the quarterfinals; he lost them to Marin Cilic 6-7(4), 4-6, and Cilic’s record in the Grand Slam tournaments after winning the first two sets was an unbelievable 51-0. To make matters worse for him, Federer had rebounded from being two sets down only nine times before in his illustrious career. Still, the last time Federer had lost in straight sets at Wimbledon was in 2002, when he was a stripling of 20.
The players were at 3-3 in the third set, with Cilic up 40-0, but Federer refused to yield, winning the game and later, the set. Cilic acknowledged later, “I was a little bit unlucky in the third one. I had one game Love‑40, the next game he broke me. That switched a little bit the momentum.”
After winning the third set 6-3, Federer faced three match points in the fourth set, but somehow overcame them to win 7-6 and force a fifth set, which he won, 6-3. Federer said after the match.
I fought, I tried, I believed. At the end I got it done. So it was great on so many levels. I was just very happy that I actually felt as strong as I did, you know, mentally and physically when I was down two sets to love. Whatever, those three breakpoints, after I fought them off, I did believe. Next thing you know, I was serving for the match in the fifth. Everything kind of went very quickly. Sometimes you feel when you’re down two sets to love, the mountain to climb is huge, it’s monstrous. Somehow everything went very quickly and I had great focus. I was very happy.”
One key difference in the match: Cilic’s seven double faults. Federer had none.
Four-time Grand Slam champion Jim Courier commented, “It was all there for Cilic to win; he had the chances … We talk so much about Roger Federer’s racquet skills. But how about his nerves? That’s what won it. When Federer had a chance in the fifth he took it.”
This will be Federer’s 11th appearance in the semifinals at Wimbledon. He has won 17 Grand Slam singles titles – the most ever by any man. Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras each won 14; Novak Djokovic and Roy Emerson won 12.