On Centre Court, Roger Federer turned back the clock in spectacular fashion to register a thrilling five-set victory over Marin Cilic, thus reaching a Grand Slam semifinal for the 40th time, a record. The quarterfinal always had the potential to be a banana skin, and the first 2 sets seemed to suggest that Federer might well be on his way out. But he recovered to register a 6-7 (4), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9), 6-3 victory.
The duo’s last meeting was the US Open SF in 2014 when Cilic dumped Federer in straight sets and for the first hour and a half, by Federer’s own admission, this one seemed to be going the same way. As he later said, “I wasn’t seeing his serves anymore. Next thing you know you’re down two sets to love on grass. I thought he was playing very well, US Open-esque. On the return he was reading my serve. On the serve, I couldn’t read his serve.”
The match did have a lot of nail biting moments for Federer fans too. The Swiss was down 0-40 at 3-3, in the 3rd set, when he just somehow managed to keep a half volley in. He later cited this as a point which gave him the belief that he still might have it in him to somehow turn this around. In the 4th set, the maestro had to save 3 match points, 2 of which came on his serve, at 4-5, and 1 in the epic tiebreak, where fortunes swung wildly. Federer faulted on a sitter at 6-4 in the tiebreak, when at the net he hit a return long. Cilic took the next 2 points, and at 6-7 all hope seemed lost as Mirka, Federer’s wife, seemed visibly upset, the fans were stunned and deathly silence prevailed on the Centre Court. But Federer struck back, and at 9-9, took the next 2 points to take the match into the decider as his fans went wild.
With the commencement of the 5th set, there was a general feeling that the match could go only one way now as Marin Cilic looked physically and mentally exhausted having blown innumerable chances to put the match to bed. And Federer put the pedal to the metal from the get go and never let the pressure relent as Cilic had to fight for each point and got lucky twice, once when the chair umpire called wrong and once when Federer again missed an easy winner with the court at his mercy. At 4-3, the levee just broke as Federer hit a superb backhand pass and a stinging forehand winner to break Cilic and then hit 3 aces in a row to kill off the match in style and at 34, keep his quest to become the oldest Grand Slam winner alive.
With Djokovic out and Nadal having withdrawn from the grass court showpiece event, many are seeing this as Federer’s best and possibly last chance to add another Grand Slam to his kitty, before he calls time on his career. A possible final hurrah. It would be fitting if it would come here, at the Mecca of tennis. He’ll next face Milos Raonic in the Semis on Friday.