It was a sultry summer day at Wimbledon, but apparently it was not hot enough to ruffle the feathers of a certain Roger Federer. The elegant Swiss produced a clinical effort to outplay an inexperienced Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 41 minutes to reach his ninth final at the greatest tennis tournament in the world. That said, Raonic will leave Wimbledon assured that he is on the right track and that his day might come not very far into the future.
A new, nervy experience for Raonic
Last year, Federer and Raonic met in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, when the Swiss raced to victory in straight sets. Raonic has come a long way since then, even gaining the confidence to boldly declare that he can be the best in the business.
It was his first Grand Slam semifinal though and serving first, he suffered an understandable misstep. After watching a Federer down the line winner fly past him at the net, Raonic threw in a double fault to offer a break point to the Swiss in the very first game.
Raonic made it simple for Federer when he swatted a forehand wide to suffer an early break. Federer on his part suffered no such jitters, playing with the studied calm of a seven time champion to come through his service games. He had another opportunity to break Raonic, but the Canadian was alert to the danger as he held for 2-3.
There was not much of an incident, till Federer was serving for the set at 5-4. As is customary these days, Federer seemed to tighten a tad with the set on his racket. But he steadied himself and Raonic sailed a backhand wide to have the Swiss take the first set.
The Canadian settles in, but Federer refuses to let up
By now, Raonic had settled his early nerves and was serving with renewed assurance to coast through his service games. The problem was, Federer was in no mood to relent either. There really was not much to separate the two men, and at 4-4 it seemed that the set was perhaps headed into a tie-breaker.
But Federer has this sense of timing that has stood him on good ground. A double fault from Raonic gave away a hint of tension in the Canadian’s arm, as he began serving for the ninth game. The Swiss then cracked an exquisite backhand down the line winner to pile some pressure on his opponent.
Raonic missed an easy smash on the next point to offer three break points. Federer took the second with another thundering backhand winner to grab a two set lead. Just over an hour had passed and a supposedly competitive encounter was turning into a fast paced affair in Federer’s favour.
More of the same in the third set
The third set was almost a carbon copy of the second – both Raonic and Federer served with confidence to skim through their games without too much agony. Once again though, it was the Canadian who surrendered the initiatve – slicing a backhand into the net to offer three break points in the ninth game.
Raonic saved the first with an ace, but failed to keep the ball in play on the next point to leave Federer serving for the match.
The Swiss struck a powerful forehand on the run into the net to give a glimmer of hope to the Canadian, 30-30 in the tenth game. But Federer snatched victory with a pair of powerful first serves to ensure there was no late drama for the delighted crowd on Centre Court.
The numbers game
Federer put up impressive numbers on serve, winning 81% of his first serve points and facing just one break point all match, which he saved. He was also fairly clean off the ground, striking 32 winners to just 11 errors. Raonic was even more aggressive off the ground, belting 36 winners past the Swiss, but the 23-year-old failed to keep the ball in play long enough on the biggest points.
Federer now moves on to his 25th Grand Slam final, where top seed Novak Djokovic awaits. It promises to be a thriller of a finale, with the stakes being sky-high for both men.
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