Evergreen Roger Federer kept his quest for a record eighth Wimbledon crown on track on Monday, dispatching Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 6-2 6-4 in a match-up of classic styles that had the purists purring.
The Bulgarian 13th seed, nicknamed “Baby Fed” when he was a junior on the basis of a single-handed backhand as silkily smooth as the Swiss master’s, looked sharp in the early exchanges.
It was close to mirror-image tennis as the two men exchanged searing groundstrokes, gliding to the Centre Court net when they saw an opening to dispatch clinical volleys.
But the difference between the greatest ever player on grass and the man who has struggled for years to emerge from his shadow told on the big points.
Third seed Federer, who missed the clay court season to better prepare for his favourite tournament, took a decisive lead in the ninth game, converting his third break point. The Swiss then served out the first set to love.
“(Dimitrov) did give me some opportunities … but most important was for me to really focus on my game,” Federer told the BBC after the match.
“I thought it was a terrific match and I didn’t expect it to go that easy for me.”
Now 26 and seeking his first win against Federer in six matches, Dimitrov sought to up the pace in the second set.
But as he did so the Bulgarian’s error count also rose, and he conceded the second set on a break of serve, punctuating a double fault with two forehands that flew long.
That pattern continued in the third set as another forehand error from Dimitrov handed Federer victory on his second match point in just over an hour and a half.
The Swiss faces either Milos Raonic in Wednesday’s quarter-final. “(Winning Wimbledon) is going to be a tough one regardless if I played the French Open or not. The good thing is I am not trying to heal something like last year’s (injured knee),” Federer said.
Andy Murray into 10th successive Wimbledon quarter-final
Defending champion Andy Murray reached a 10th successive Wimbledon quarter-final on Monday with a 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 6-4 win over Benoit Paire of France. The world number one will face Sam Querrey, who he leads 7-1 in career meetings, for a place in the semi-finals.
“I thought I played well. Maybe a couple of sloppy service games in the first set but that was by far the best I’d hit the ball so far in the tournament. So I’m really pleased with that,” said Murray. “He’s not an easy guy to play. He’s got one of the best backhands.”
Only Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors (11 each) have reached more consecutive Wimbledon quarter-finals than Murray.
The 30-year-old’s progress is particularly noteworthy as he came into the tournament nursing a hip injury. “Two weeks ago I was resting, I was also a little bit concerned when you’re having issues a few days before a big event, it’s frustrating,” said Murray. “But I’ve managed it well and I think I’ve played some good stuff. That was the best I’ve played so far in the tournament. I’m doing well so hopefully I keep it up.”
Comfortable Cilic crushes Roberto Bautista Agut
Lofty Croat Marin Cilic demolished Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 6-2 6-2 at Wimbledon on Monday, doing the damage on distant Court 12 with his pounding serve and thumping forehand. The 28-year-old seventh seed has reached the quarter-finals this year almost under the radar with straight-set victories over solid opponents Philipp Kohlschreiber, Florian Mayer and Steve Johnson, before downing Bautista Agut, who is ranked a healthy 19th in the world.
But the Spaniard looked way out of his depth against the 1.98m (6 ft 6 in) Cilic, who used every centimetre of his height on the fast surface to serve nine aces and whack 39 winners past his opponent, who stands 15 cm shorter.
“You have everywhere advantages and disadvantages,” Cilic said of his size and reach. “(It’s) just the way you take them and tennis is a game that is extremely complex and you can play it any way you want, so you have to obviously use your advantages well.”
Court 12 is billed as a show court, but it is a small arena well to the south of the All England Club ground and away from the hurly burly of the central stages. Cilic, a former U.S. Open champion, clearly thrived out of the limelight, wrapping up the match in a brisk one hour 40 minutes.
Bautista Agut tried everything, looking for tight angles on groundstrokes and attempting dropshots. He even tried to finish a long rally in the second set with a lob only to see Cilic jump up and win the point with a high backhand volley.
The in-form Croat, runner-up at the Queen’s Club warm-up tournament last month, wobbled a little as he served for a place in the last eight, with the Spaniard saving three match points. But Cilic sealed the match on the fourth with a big serve that Bautista Agut could only parry into the net.
It is the fourth time in a row that Cilic has reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals and he has rarely looked more comfortable. “With all the parts of my game…the level is, I would say, quite solid,” Cilic said. “Considering that, (I’m) returning well, serving well. I’m moving on the court really good. So with everything, really satisfied.”
Cilic has spent nearly a year with coach Jonas Bjorkman, who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2006, and said the Swede had helped add “small pieces” to his game.
“He has helped me also a little bit with the mental attitude. We worked also on my serve as also on the other shots. I feel it’s getting much more consistent now and also following up after the serve has been working so well.” He will meet Gilles Muller in the last eight on Wednesday.
Milos Raonic ousts Alexander Zverev in marathon
Canada’s Milos Raonic survived a marathon fourth round workout against rising German star Alexander Zverev on Monday, knocking out some pundits’ outside bet for this year’s title 4-6 7-5 4-6 7-5 6-1. Seeded sixth and runner-up last year to Andy Murray, Raonic kept his cool on the crunch points, taking five of eight opportunities to break while the 20-year-old 10th seed converted just three of 18. The big-serving Canadian sealed the match with his 23rd ace after close to 3-1/2 hours’ play. Raonic will face Roger Federer in Wednesday’s quarter-final.
Tomas Berdych downs Dominic Thiem in five sets
Former finalist Tomas Berdych reached the last eight at Wimbledon after coming through a brutal five set tussle with Austrian Dominic Thiem on Monday. Berdych, who lost to Rafa Nadal in the 2010 final, came through 6-3 6-7(1) 6-3 3-6 6-3 in a two-hour-and-52 minute encounter on Court Three against the world number eight. The Czech, who reached the quarter-finals for the fifth time, will next face either three-times champion Novak Djokovic or Adrian Mannarino. Berdych, who had only won one of his previous 10 matches against top 10 opposition, was celebrating after firing down his 15th ace.
Wimbledon Men’s Singles QF: Andy Murray vs Sam Querrey, Gilles Muller vs Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic vs Roger Federer, Tomas Berdych vs Novak Djokovic/Adrian Mannarino