Given that Roger Federer already owns seven Wimbledon championships, it really should not shock anyone that he made it back to the semifinals for the 11th time.
And yet, for various reasons, even Federer himself did not expect to still be in action at Centre Court on the grass-court tournament’s second Friday, facing Milos Raonic for a berth in the title match.
Federer is, let’s remember, a month shy of his 35th birthday, an age at which no man has made it to the final at the All England Club since Ken Rosewall was 39 in 1974.
And it’s been four full years since Federer last won a Grand Slam title, at Wimbledon in 2012.
More relevant, though, is what he has endured this season. In February, Federer had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, the first operation of his professional tennis career. He’s dealt with recurring back problems. He sat out the French Open, ending a record streak of 65 consecutive appearances at major tournaments dating to the start of 2000.
And he came to Wimbledon with only a 16-6 match record and zero titles in 2016, the first time since 2000 that he went this far into a season without winning a tournament.
“I was very worried coming here,” the third-seeded Federer acknowledged after saving three match points and coming back from a two-set deficit to beat Marin Cilic 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-3 in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
“Yes,” he added a moment later, “I did surprise myself, in quite a big way, actually.”
In Friday’s second semifinal, No. 2 Andy Murray will meet No. 10 Tomas Berdych.
Murray lost to Federer in the 2012 final at Wimbledon, then won the trophy a year later, the first British man to do since Fred Perry in 1936.
Berdych was the runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2010, his only appearance in a Grand Slam final, after beating Federer and Novak Djokovic along the way.
“That was the first time (I showed) myself that I can play well for two weeks,” Berdych said. “I can beat the best guys, not only at the beginning of the tournament, but also in the later stages.”
Murray, who has won his last four matches against Berdych, is more familiar with this territory. This will be his seventh semifinal at Wimbledon and 20th at a major. He has participated in 10 Grand Slam finals, facing Federer or Djokovic each time, and winning twice.
Like Federer, Murray played five sets in the quarterfinals, although he took the first two sets against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, then dropped the next two, before pulling away in the last.
“That was a really hard, hard match to come through. I think it can give you a bit of confidence. It can help to go through games and stages in matches that are challenging,” said Murray, who recently reunited with Ivan Lendl, his coach when he won his two major trophies. “If you’re in that position in the next couple of matches, you know you’ve been there.”
Raonic also has a past Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked man in his corner. Two, actually. Already being coached by Carlos Moya, who won the 1998 French Open, and Ricardo Piatti, Raonic has added three-time Wimbledon winner John McEnroe as a consultant.
During an initial phone conversation about the partnership, Raonic said, he and McEnroe each pointed out what they thought could be improved.
“Obviously, being more effective coming forward was a big thing on my side. A big thing on his side was demeanor on the court, presence on the court,” the sixth-seeded Raonic said. “Both those things have been given quite a bit of attention.”
This is the 25-year-old Canadian’s second Wimbledon semifinal. The other also came against Federer, who beat Raonic in straight sets two years ago.
“I’m happy,” Raonic said, “that I have another shot at him.”