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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Wimbledon 2021: Federer ends British hopes in men’s draw, Zverev advances

Roger Federer, who turns 40 next month, became the third-oldest man to reach the round of 16 at Wimbledon in the Open Era -- after Pancho Gonzales (41) in 1969 and Ken Rosewall (40) in 1975.

By: Reuters | London |
July 3, 2021 11:37:14 pm
Roger Federer celebrates his win over Cameron Norrie at the Wimbledon 2021. (Twitter/Wimbledon)

Apparently if there was a perfect time to topple Roger Federer early at Wimbledon, this was the year — so believed Cameron Norrie and his vast legion of British fans.

A dogged 6-4 6-4 5-7 6-4 third round win for Federer on Saturday told its own story.

Hopes that the 29th seed could stop Federer’s pursuit of a men’s record ninth All England Club title reached fever pitch after 338th-ranked British wildcard Emma Raducanu had defied the odds to reach the last 16 moments before Norrie walked onto Centre Court for his showdown with the Swiss supremo.

The fact that Federer had barely played in 18 months and was still in the tournament after his lucky escape against Adrian Mannarino in the first round, with the injured Frenchman quitting when the match was at two sets all, also raised hopes of an upset win for the last British man left in the singles draw.

But Federer, with his surgically patched-up knees and his 39-year-old battle-hardened body, showed that he is prepared to take as many knocks as it takes to keep alive his dreams of once again holding aloft the pineapple-topped Challenge Cup.

Just what facing Federer on the world’s most famous tennis stage does to the nerves was evident in the opening game of the match when Norrie kept misfiring his serve to produce three double faults.

While he survived that inauspicious start, Norrie was left floundering in the seventh game when Federer broke him to love. That was enough to give the sixth seed the opening set.

The second set again started with a bit of misfortune for the Briton, who struck a ball that bounced into the stands and hit a little boy in the face. After making sure the child was okay, he tossed an official Wimbledon towel to the boy.

While the crowd applauded the gesture, Norrie’s own fortunes dipped further when Federer broke him for a 2-1 lead.

The Swiss, who turns 40 next month, held on to the advantage to take the set and appeared to be heading for a straight sets victory when he held break point at 5-5 in the third.

Instead a streaky backhand from Federer kept Norrie alive and within a flash it was the Swiss who was broken to love in the next game as he handed Norrie the set with a wild forehand.

Norrie kept Federer on his toes by breaking back for 3-3 in the fourth but the 20-time Grand Slam champion survived a fall in the ninth game to break for a 5-4 lead.

A netted service return handed Federer his 104th win at his favourite tournament as he made it into the second week at the All England Club for the 17th time in his last 18 appearances.

Zverev beats Fritz for fourth-round spot

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev beat American Taylor Fritz 6-7(3) 6-4 6-3 7-6(4) on Saturday to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon and match his best performance at the grasscourt Grand Slam.

The German, who reached the round of 16 at the All England Club in 2017, kept his unforced errors low and repeatedly tested the serve of the 31st-seeded American, who underwent surgery less than a month ago after suffering a knee injury at Roland Garros.

After the first set went without a break of serve, the 23-year-old Fritz raised his game in the tie-breaker to take the lead against Zverev who had failed to convert two breakpoint opportunities.

The players traded service breaks in the second set but Zverev, 24, converted a second opportunity to level the match and then took the lead with a single break of serve in the third.

It was Zverev’s turn to play solidly in the fourth set tie-breaker and despite committing his ninth double-fault he was able to close out the contest when Fritz sent a forehand long.

Zverev hit 45 winners, 19 of them aces, while keeping his unforced errors to 25.

Next up for the German will be Canadian 16th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who advanced to the round of 16 when Australian Nick Kyrgios retired with an injury.

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