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You cannot be serious: Murray hits back at McEnroe claim

June 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Andy Murray has slammed John McEnroe’s claim the world number one should be seen as ‘a distant fourth’ behind old rivals Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Murray

Murray begins his Wimbledon preparations this week as he defends his title in the grass-court tournament at Queen’s Club and American legend McEnroe may have given the Scot a little extra motivation with his criticism.

Although Wimbledon champion Murray remains top of the rankings, the 30-year-old has struggled this year, while Nadal and Federer have enjoyed unexpected revivals.

At Wimbledon, Federer will be hoping to clinch a 19th Grand Slam, while Nadal and Djokovic are gunning for their 16th and 13th respectively.

McEnroe told the Sunday Times that Murray, who has won three major titles, can’t be ranked on the same level as his ‘Big Four’ rivals.

But while the Scot admits that rings true for their whole careers, he pointed to his record at the Olympics, where he has won two singles gold medals, as evidence to the contrary.

“For me, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I’m very proud of the Olympic medals, they mean a lot to me,” Murray said at Queen’s Club on Sunday.

“Within tennis, a lot of people just go ‘oh that guy was a better player because he won more Grand Slams than that one or that woman was better because she won more Grand Slams’.

“If that’s the case then what is the point in all of us being here today? Why is everyone here covering this event? There are other tournaments outside the slams as well.

“If you look at the titles and everything those guys have won, I can’t compare myself to them.

“There’s maybe one or two things that I have done that they won’t have but for the most part I would have been fourth.

“But it’s not true of the last year because I’m ranked number one in the world. I’ve been better than them for the last 12 months, that’s how the ranking systems work.”

Murray also stood by his recent claim that he may only have two or three more years left challenging for major honours, despite Federer winning the Australian Open aged 35 in January.

“It’s really hard, it’s always tough to stay at the top of any sport,” Murray said.

“I hope I stay at the top of the game for five, six, seven years but I think just because Roger’s done it doesn’t mean that’s going to happen to everyone.

“Right now, I feel good, but we’ll have to see how I am.”

Murray will face British number four Aljaz Bedene at Queen’s on Tuesday as he looks to hold onto the title he won for a record fifth time last year.

Federer downs Nadal to win Miami Open

April 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer defeated long-standing rival Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to win the Miami Open on Sunday and continue his outstanding start to the year.

Federer

Since returning from his six month injury lay-off, the 35-year-old Federer has also won the Australian Open and Indian Wells and he heads into a self-imposed break before the French Open as, once again, the dominant presence on the ATP Tour.

Federer has beaten Nadal in all of those events this year and has now won his last four meetings between the pair.

“It’s been a fabulous couple of weeks,” said Federer after his victory before announcing he would take a nearly two month break before the French Open in late May.

“I’m not 24 any more so things have changed in a big way and I probably won’t play any clay court event except the French,” he said.

Nadal was playing in his fifth Miami final but remains without a win in the Masters series event.

Although Nadal still has a 23-14 advantage in the meetings between the two, dating back to their first match in Miami in 2004, Federer now has a 10-9 lead on hard courts.

The first set was a tight affair with both players having their opportunities to break. But it was not until the eighth game and 10th break point of the set that one of them was able to get ahead.

Nadal could only find the net from a Federer backhand and the Swiss grabbed a 5-3 lead and held the next game to secure the first set.

Federer pinpointed his saving of break points in the first game and at 3-3 as crucial moments in the contest.

“It was totally key,” Federer said. “He looked good from the get-go. He was playing big tennis, stepping in and doing all the right things.

“A bit more luck on his side and the wrong decisions by me at that moment and it could have turned very quickly. It was a very intense first set.”

There has always been a marked contrast between Federer and Nadal’s styles and with time it has become further accentuated.

Nadal was working hard in the 83 degrees afternoon heat, thrusting himself into his shots while the elegant Federer’s poise appeared almost casual.

The second set took an almost identical path, albeit with fewer openings to break for both players until Federer again pounced, to grab a 5-4 lead when Nadal went long returning a fine backhand.

“Maybe if you didn’t see the match and just saw the score you might think it was some sort of straightforward match with a couple of breaks. But that is not the full story,” Federer said.

“He had his chances in the first and the second it was close and I think on the big points today I was just maybe a little bit better … it just fell that way.,” added the Swiss, who showed some signs of tiredness after his gruelling three-set win over Nick Kyrgios in Friday’s semi-final.

“I was more in fight-mode today, just trying to stay afloat. Physically and emotionally it has been a draining week, I think I did very well,” he said.

Nadal was left to stomach a third defeat in three finals so far this year following a loss to Sam Querrey in Acapulco and Federer in Australia. But he said he felt in good form heading into the clay season, where he has enjoyed so much of his success.

“I think I am close to what I need to be. I am at a very high level of tennis and I believe I am ready to win titles,” he said.

“I’m playing enough well to fight for everything I think. I have good hopes that I’m going to be ready for Monte Carlo. Always when I am playing that well, on clay always helps a little bit more for me.

“I am very excited about playing back on clay again,” he said.

Federer, Kyrgios advance to Miami Open semis

March 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer dramatically fought his way into the Miami Open semi-finals with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8/6) victory over Czech 10th seed Tomas Berdych on Thursday.

Federer

The 35-year-old Swiss, who has already won the Australian Open and Indian Wells so far this year, extended his win streak over Berdych to seven matches.

There was plenty of tension in the match-deciding tie-breaker, where Federer saved match point and then Berdych lost on a double-fault.

“I definitely got very lucky at the end, but I think I showed great heart today,” Federer said. “I fought and Tomas definitely started to step it up, but it was a great match at the end.”

Federer will face Nick Kyrgios in the semi-finals after the Australian came through an entertaining 6-4, 6-7 (9/11), 6-3 victory over 19-year-old German Alexander Zverev.

Federer next will play the winner of Thursday’s later quarter-final between two of the ATP’s up and coming stars, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios and Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

Should Federer win Friday, there is a chance he will play Sunday’s final against long-standing rival Rafael Nadal, who faces Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the other semi-final.

But Thursday could very easily have been the end of the tournament for the 18-time Grand Slam champion, who entered the match having not dropped a set over eight consecutive matches at Indian Wells and Miami.

Berdych was broken in the opening game of the match and then Federer dealt with a break point in the second game. The Swiss was comfortable on his serve and then broke Berdych again at 4-2 to put the opening set beyond doubt.

But then, the Czech dug deep and came out fighting.

Berdych broke to go 5-3 up and took the contest into a third set, where Federer made the most of some unforced errors from his opponent to break at 4-2 but then, uncharacteristically, Federer let some sloppiness creep into his game.

Federer was broken when serving for the match at 5-3 and was unable to convert on match-point at in the next game.

Berdych led 6-4 in the tie-breaker but gave up two points and Federer blasted a superb ace to get in front before the double-fault from the Czech ended the contest.

It was the second demoralizing defeat this month for Berdych. He lost at Indian Wells in the third round after leading 6-1, 5-2 against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

Asked about his frustration, Berdych said: “What should I do? Should I destroy the table? Then you see how much I’m frustrated. I don’t know.

“It’s obviously not something that you want, to finish the tournament like that. But I got a lesson in the last tournament, so this is going to be fine to get over with. I think this is going to be a strawberry cake after that. It’s going to be fine.”

Federer improved to 17-1 in 2017, his best start to a season since 2006, and has now won seven tie-breakers in a row.

The Kyrgios-Zverev quarter-final was billed as a glimpse at the future of top-level tennis and if so, the sport should have an entertaining era ahead.

The match featured huge serves from Kyrgios, audacious and expertly executed lobs from Zverev and an intense second set tie-breaker decided for the German after his rival tried unsuccessfully to return a lob on set point through his legs.

Kyrgios, though, has added greater control to his always explosive game and finished strong to set up a fascinating clash with Federer.

Nadal on track for Federer showdown at ATP Miami as Sock downed

March 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal took a step closer to a possible final against long-time rival Roger Federer in the Miami Open after a straight sets win over American Jack Sock on Wednesday at Key Biscayne.

Nadal

Nadal’s 6-2, 6-3 win over the 13th-seeded Sock sets up a semi-final meeting with unseeded Italian Fabio Fognini who upset second ranked Kei Nishikori 6-4, 6-2 earlier in the day.

The Spaniard’s forehand was ominous as he neutralised Sock in one hour and 22 minutes.

Nadal was able to save six of seven break points earned by Sock as he kept control of the contest.

He broke Sock in the American’s first service game and swiftly established a 3-0 advantage and a second break at 5-2 wrapped up the opening set.

The American showed his spirit though as he broke Nadal at the start of the second but was unable to take advantage of a double break that could have put him 3-0 up.

Instead Nadal pulled back to 2-2 and with Sock failing to make the most of a chance of further break points it was comfortable in the end.

The 30-year-old Spaniard has never won in Miami despite being a four-time finalist and he expects plenty of work to get past Fognini and make it a fifth appearance.

“We know each other very well. He has beaten me a couple of times and so it will be a good test. I am happy to be the semi-finals but it will be a tough one and I will need to play my best,” said Nadal.

Fognini has three wins from ten meetings with the Spaniard, the most recent coming on clay in Rio de Janiero in 2015.

The 29-year-old world number 40 showed plenty of confidence as he took the game to his Japanese opponent from the outset.

It was the Italian’s first victory in three attempts over Nishikori and his first Masters series quarter-final win since 2013, when he reached the last four in Monte-Carlo.

Nishikori earlier said he had not felt fully in top shape for the contest.

“I wasn’t 100%, physically, I mean, it was tough conditions for me,” he said, referring to the heat on the mid-afternoon Key Biscayne centre court.

“But it was also same for him, too. He was playing a lot of the long matches, but I think he still played good enough to beat me today,” he added.

Fognini, who was cheered on by his friend, former Italy footballer Christian Vieri, said he had come through a demanding test.

“It wasn’t easy and I was just focused on my game. I am very happy, I’m in the semifinal, I’m playing well and I feel good again on the court,” he said.

On Thursday, Federer takes on Czech tenth-seed Tomas Berdych while the last quarter-final pits Germany’s Alexander Zverev against Australia’s Nick Kyrgios.

Federer, Wawrinka advance in Miami

March 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer survived a brave challenge from American qualifier Frances Tiafoe before emerging with a 7-6 (7/2) 6-3 victory as he got his Miami Open title bid underway.

Federer

Tiafoe, ranked 101st in the world, struggled against Federer’s serve but was strong on his own and forced a first set tie-break in which the Swiss came out on top.

The 19-year-old son of immigrants from Sierra Leone then broke Federer’s serve in the first game of the second set only for the 18-times Grand Slam winner to break back twice and run out a comfortable winner in the end.

Federer was full of praise for his opponent and said he would have gained valuable experience from the contest.

“I hope he’s going to learn a lot from a match like this just because playing on a centre court with a lot of people, under pressure, saving break points, making break points, playing breakers. That’s what it’s about, and it should feed a player like him with a lot of energy moving forward,” he said.

Federer is in fine form having clinched the Australian Open and Indian Wells so far this year and extended his record to 14-1.

The 35-year-old is looking for his third Miami title following wins in 2005 and 2006.

Federer should have met Del Potro in Miami last year but the Swiss had to pull out with an illness and he says he is looking forward to renewing his rivalry with the South American

“We’ve had some epic matches against each other: Semis at the French, Olympic semis, finals at the US Open. You name it, we’ve had some really good ones,” he said.

Reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka got off to a solid start, beating Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4 at Crandon Park on Saturday.

In the absence of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the top two ranked players in the world, Wawrinka is the number one seed and is fired up after reaching the final at Indian Wells last week, where he was beaten by Federer.

“I’m playing better tennis. I feel that I’m playing good here. I took the confidence from Indian Wells. So let’s see… When I’m playing well, when I am confident with my game, I know I can beat anybody,” said Wawrinka, who turns 32 on Tuesday.

“It has been quite tough conditions these last few days here. Raining, really windy today. It’s really windy on the court, so it’s never easy.

“I’m happy the way I was moving, the way I was playing, and my attitude in general was really positive,” added Wawrinka, who next faces Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.

Wawrinka will face either Malek Jaziri next after the Tunisian beat Feliciano Lopez 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Australia’s Nick Kyrgios also progressed on Saturday enjoying a 6-4 6-3 win over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.

Federer in full flight heading into Miami

March 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer keeps saying he’s still on the comeback trail, but he’s covering ground faster than he ever imagined.

Federer

The Swiss, sidelined much of 2016 with a knee injury, soared to a fifth ATP Indian Wells Masters title on Sunday to go with the 18th Grand Slam crown he claimed at the Australian Open in January.

And now that he’s back at number six in the world, Federer is reassessing his goals for 2017.

“This was not part of the plan, to win Australia and Indian Wells,” Federer said after his 6-4, 7-5 victory over fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in the Indian Wells final.

“The goal was to be top eight by after Wimbledon, so I’m there much, much faster.

“I will make the plan for the remainder of the season, especially for the clay, after Miami, and then see also what the goals are because the goals are clearly changing after this dream start.”

Federer emerged from a daunting quarter in Indian Wells that also included world number two Novak Djokovic and 14-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal as well as former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro and rising talents Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev.

Kyrgios sent Djokovic packing, and the Serbian star has since withdrawn from this week’s tournament in Miami saying an elbow injury he’s carried for months had worsened.

Federer wiped the floor with Nadal in Indian Wells just two months after his thrilling five-set win over the Spaniard in the Australian Open final.

Wawrinka was the only player who managed to break Federer’s serve in the California desert, but eventually even he could only stand back and admire his superstar compatriot’s majestic progress to the title.

“The way he’s playing is just so beautiful,” Wawrinka said of the 35-year-old Federer. “Everything looks perfect. He’s moving amazingly well. He has amazing touch. He’s doing everything you can do on the tennis court.”

Federer captured his 90th career title. Although he said it was too soon to start thinking about the milestone of 100, he certainly goes into Miami a strong favorite with Djokovic as well as injured world number one Andy Murray out of the second Masters event of the year.

He has leapfrogged Nadal to sixth in the world rankings. Whether he can move past Wawrinka, Djokovic and Murray and regain the number one ranking is a question that Federer, in his current incarnation, isn’t too worried about.

“Sure I’d love to be number one again,” he said. “But anything else other than world number one for me is not interesting. So that’s why the rankings is not a priority right now.”

Instead, he’s focused on approaching each tournament he plays with energy and eagerness, something he admits was missing when he turned up in Dubai and lost to 116th-ranked Evgeny Donskoy.

“I just wasn’t 100 percent prepared, unfortunately, because of the injury I was carrying after Melbourne,” he said. “I was still tired. I was lacking energy.”

At Indian Wells, he said, the preparation was complete and the energy was good, and he anticipated the same for Miami.

“I think I’m going to be fine on that front just because I’m feeling too good on the court and I’m having too much fun,” Federer said. “Winning creates a lot of good energy.

“But I know how hard it is to win back-to-back Indian Wells and Miami titles.

“That’s why I go to Miami knowing it’s going to be really difficult,” added Federer, who is showing renewed talent for making the difficult look oh so easy.

Federer unfazed by treacherous Indian Wells draw

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer, riding high after an 18th Grand Slam triumph, isn’t rattled by the tennis version of the group of death.

Federer

The Swiss superstar, whose Australian Open victory in January signalled a resurgence after a year disrupted by injury, is drawn in the same quarter with three-time defending champion and second seed Novak Djokovic and Spanish fifth seed Rafael Nadal in the Indian Wells ATP Masters.

“Amazing, amazing draw,” said world number one and top seed Andy Murray, who has the luxury of analyzing it from a safe spot on the opposite end of the bracket.

“I’ve never seen anything like that, probably it would be one of the toughest sections of a draw of all time.”

Ninth-seeded Federer, however, downplayed the drama of sharing a quarter with Nadal and Djokovic. Among the three of them they have won 12 of the past 13 Indian Wells titles.

To add a little more spice, they are joined by former US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, dangerous Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, mercurial Australian talent Nick Kyrgios — who shocked Djokovic in Acapulco last week — and tenacious teenager Alexander Zverev, who took Nadal to five sets in Melbourne.

“Most of the guys you won’t even see, because they’ll eliminate each other,” the unflappable Federer said.

But he admitted it got his attention when the draw was made.

“The first message I got was Dudi Sela or Stephane Robert (for his first opponent) and I was like ‘OK, fine,'” Federer said.

“Then I heard that Rafa was in my section I was ‘OK’. Then I heard that maybe Novak’s in my section — you’re like ‘OK, fine.’

“It doesn’t matter,” Federer insisted. “I’ve gone through so many draws. I came here to Indian Wells to play against those guys. So it doesn’t matter if it’s the semis the final or actually the fourth round.

“I think it’s good for me to play those guys early. I look forward to it.”

The unique situation is the result of last year’s drop in form — and ranking — for Federer and Nadal, who signalled their resurgence with an epic Australian Open final duel in which the Swiss emerged victorious.

Federer and Nadal could meet in the fourth round, and whoever advances from that section could meet Djokovic in the quarters.

In the same half, fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori and sixth-seeded Marin Cilic lurk.

The highest seed awaiting Murray in the quarter-finals could be seventh seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Third-seeded Stan Wawrinka, or eighth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem, could meet Murray in the top half’s semi-final.

While Murray said all possible paths to the final were treacherous, he, like many, was mesmerized by the talent packed into the bottom quarter.

In addition to Federer’s 18 Grand Slam titles, Nadal has won 14, Djokovic 12 and del Potro one.

“In terms of the amount of Grand Slams you have in that bottom section and then also the younger, up-and-comers, it’s pretty exciting for tennis fans for sure,” Murray said. “Obviously a section, ideally, you would want to be avoiding, if you can.”

Federer wants Rafa as Laver Cup doubles partner

February 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer revealed on Monday he wants to join forces in doubles with arch rival Rafael Nadal at the inaugural Laver Cup this year.

Federer

The Swiss tennis great made the confession at the unveiling of the new tournament scheduled for Prague in September which will pit a Bjorn Borg-captained European team against John McEnroe’s rest of the world.

Federer, who beat Nadal in an epic five-set Australian Open final last month, admitted on Monday: “I’ve always wanted to play with Rafa… just because our rivalry has been so special.

“I’ve seen his wicked forehand go past me too often!”

The new addition to the tennis calendar is named after Rod Laver, the last man to achieve the calendar Grand Slam in 1969.

“Rod Laver wants us to represent our part of the world with pride and play our best and win for our teammates. We will play to our best possibilities,” Federer, 35, told the media launch in Prague.

Federer, the world number nine, is due to figure with sixth-ranked Nadal at the September 22-24 event.

The Laver Cup will be held every year except in an Olympic season, with four matches each day — three in singles, one in doubles.

Each team comprises six players — four based on the ATP singles rankings after Wimbledon and two picks by the captains, Borg and McEnroe.

Federer refused to see Team Europe as a clear winner, although it currently has 17 players in the top 20 of the ATP rankings.

“I think Team Europe are going to be big favourites but because of the setup of the Laver Cup I think the margins are always going to be very slim,” said Federer.

Before talking to journalists, the Swiss star played the Czech Republic’s number one Tomas Berdych on a boat on the Vltava river in Prague’s historic centre on a chilly Monday morning.

Berdych, ranked 14th in the world, said their game under the picturesque Charles Bridge was “a very nice opportunity to show Roger a little bit of the town.”

“We were joking we should do this every day,” said Federer.

“I thought it was very particular, very unique — it was definitely a privilege,” he beamed before confessing: “It was a bit windy though.”

Federer wins Nadal thriller to clinch 18th Slam

January 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer defied age and his Grand Slam nemesis Rafael Nadal to win a record 18th Grand Slam title in a thrilling, five-set final at the Australian Open on Sunday.

Federer

Federer, 35, won a classic encounter 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to become the oldest major-winner in 45 years and move four titles clear of Nadal and Pete Sampras on the all-time list.

The veteran Swiss jumped for joy and cried tears of happiness as he sealed the win on his second championship point, ending a five-year wait for a big victory after Wimbledon in 2012.

Neither Federer nor Nadal, 30, was expected to reach the final but both players grabbed their chance after the early demise of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

And it was a final for the ages as momentum shifted from one side to the other before Federer finally seized control in the deciding set.

“That is a milestone in my career, they are always epic matches against Rafa,” said Federer, adding: “Rafa has caused me the most problems in my career.”

For Federer, it sealed an astonishing comeback from six months out with injury. His fifth Australian title came seven long years after his last, against Murray in 2010.

“Tennis is a tough sport, there’s no draws. But if there was going to be one I would have been very happy to accept a draw tonight and share it with Rafa, really,” Federer said.

“Keep playing please, Rafa. Tennis needs you.”

Federer becomes the oldest major champion since Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open in 1972 at the age of 37.

His ranking has dipped to 17 after a knee problem ended last season following Wimbledon, but he will now rise to 10 when the new rankings are released this week.

It was the 35th meeting between the two long-time rivals with Nadal now leading 23-12 and 6-3 in major finals, including his five-set win over Federer in the 2009 Australian final.

“I would have said a great event would be making the quarters,” Federer said of his pre-tournament expectations.

“Today I just drove myself forward, I said, “Believe in it, run for the ball. Serve and run, serve and run. Just fight and see if you get lucky.

“I did, really got lucky tonight.”

Nadal, who has also come back to form and fitness after an injury-ravaged 2016, has held the edge over Federer in major finals, winning their last four.

“It’s amazing how well he’s playing after being away for so long. For sure, you have been working a lot to make that happen. I am very happy for you,” Nadal told the crowd.

“It was a good month for me, amazing month for me, really enjoyed it. I worked very hard to be where I am today. Probably Roger deserved it a little bit more than me.”

“I’m just going to keep on trying. Feel like I’m back to a very high level. I’ll keep fighting this season.”

Federer, playing aggressively and with a flatter backhand than normal, took the match to Nadal and got the only service break to take the opening set.

Nadal fought back with two breaks to level before Federer got the bit between his teeth with a double break in the third set.

The Spaniard hit back in the fourth set with a service break in the fourth game to take the final into a fifth set.

He again broke the Swiss early in the final set but Federer stirred himself and broke Nadal twice before serving out for a brilliant and emotional victory.

Federer, considered by many as the finest player in tennis history, is now the first man to win five or more titles at three different Grand Slam events.

He has collected five Australian Opens, seven Wimbledons, five US Opens and one French Open in a span of victories which now stretches across 14 years.

Federer, Nadal clash in blockbuster Aussie final

January 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will collide in a hugely anticipated Australian Open final on Sunday after both veterans beat the odds to open a new chapter in their thrilling Grand Slam rivalry.

Tennis

Federer, 35, will become the oldest Grand Slam finalist in 43 years, while Nadal, 30, has defied a series of injuries to reach his first major title match since he won the 2014 French Open.

It’s a final that nobody saw coming but after the early exits of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the old rivals have seized their opportunity with both hands.

For Federer, it’s a chance to extend his all-time record tally of Grand Slam wins to 18, and exact a measure of revenge on his long-time nemesis.

Nadal can win his 15th Grand Slam title, closing the gap on Federer and drawing level with Pete Sampras in second place on the all-time list of major-winners.

It comes after Serena and Venus Williams, aged 35 and 36 respectively, met in the women’s final — making it the first Open-era Grand Slam tournament where all four singles finalists have been in their thirties.

Neither of the former world number ones was expected to reach the final after injuries disrupted their seasons last year and their rankings dipped, to 17 for Federer and nine for Nadal.

The unexpected reprise of one of tennis’s great rivalries will be their ninth meeting in a major final, the most between any two players in the post-1968 Open era.

Nadal has won six of their major finals, with Federer’s last victory in 2007. But the Spaniard said past results were irrelevant.

“It’s a different match, different moment for both of us. I think this match is completely different than what happened before,” he said.

“It’s special. We have not been there in that situation for a while, so that makes the match different.

“I really don’t think about what happened in the past. I think the player who plays better is going to be the winner.”

The pair last contested a Grand Slam final at Roland Garros three years ago. They also met in the Australian Open semi-finals in 2014, with Nadal winning each time.

“Now it’s a different time. A lot of time has gone by,” Federer said. “I know this court allows me to play a certain game against Rafa that I cannot do on centre court at the French Open.”

It will be Federer’s sixth Australian Open final and his 28th Grand Slam decider in total, and caps a marvellous comeback after the second half of last season was wiped out by a knee injury.

He has thrilled his many fans with his revival, having not figured in a Grand Slam final since the 2015 US Open.

“This is the last one (match) so I will leave it all out here in Australia and if I cannot walk for another five months I will give it all I have,” Federer said.

Federer can become the first man to win five or more titles at three Grand Slam events, while Nadal stands to become the only man in the Open era to win all the majors at least twice.

Bulgarian blockade as Nadal eyes Federer final

January 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal will try to set up a hugely anticipated Australian Open final with his old rival Roger Federer when he plays the in-form Grigor Dimitrov in the semis on Friday.

Nadal

Few gave injury-hit thirty-somethings Nadal and Federer any chance pre-tournament but the Swiss maestro is already into Sunday’s title match and his long-time sparring partner is keen to follow.

The early defeats of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic opened the door to other challengers and Federer and Nadal have shown they’re still at the front of the queue.

Nadal, 30, has looked fit and aggressive, if not fully back to his best, in beating third seed Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils and Alexander Zverev in his last three matches.

“All of them are top players. So that’s very important for me because that means that I am competitive and playing well. I worked hard to try to make that happen,” Nadal said.

The 14-time Grand Slam-winner, now ranked ninth, is aiming for his first major final since in two-and-a-half years after returning from an injury-wrecked 2016.

But Bulgaria’s Dimitrov, once dubbed ‘Baby Fed’ for his similarity to Federer, poses an interesting test as he is in the form of his life and playing with new focus and determination.

Dimitrov has beaten five top-20 players in a 10-match winning streak this year, equalling the best of his career, which includes his victory this month in Brisbane.

“He’s a player that has an unbelievable talent, unbelievable potential. He’s started the season playing unbelievable,” Nadal said.

“It’s going to be a very tough match for me. I hope for him, too. I have to play my best because he’s playing with high confidence.”

The 2009 winner is 7-1 in his matches with 15th seed Dimitrov, including a four-set quarter-final win at the Australian Open three years ago.

Another salient statistic is that Nadal is 66-8 against players with one-handed backhands at Slams.

The last time the Bulgarian won 10 straight matches was back in 2014, when he took the title at Queen’s and reached the last four at Wimbledon.

“I feel like I have all the tools to go further and my job isn’t over yet,” Dimitrov said. “I’m looking forward to my match. I think I’m prepared.

“I think I’m ready to go the distance. I don’t shy away from that. I’m confident enough to say that as I feel good physically, and overall on the court.”

Federer edges Wawrinka thriller to reach final

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer edged a five-set thriller against his fellow Swiss and close friend Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open on Thursday to become the oldest Grand Slam finalist in 43 years.

TENNIS-AUS-OPEN

The 17-time Grand Slam champion saw off the world number four 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3 in three hours and five minutes and will face either Rafael Nadal or Grigor Dimitrov in Sunday’s final.

It will be 35-year-old Federer’s sixth Australian final and 28th Grand Slam decider in total, and caps a marvellous comeback after the second half of last season was ruined by a knee injury.

The four-time Australian Open champion becomes the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam final since Australia’s Ken Rosewall (39 years 310 days) at the 1974 US Open.

In an enthralling contest, Federer won the opening two sets before Wawrinka clawed back to take the semi-final into a fifth, only for Federer to prevail with a service break in the sixth game.

“Yes, it is real now. I can talk about playing in finals for the first time,” Federer said on court.

“I have been dodging that bullet for the last few days now talking about the next round and the next round but this is the last one.

“So I will leave it all out here in Australia and (even) if I cannot walk for another five months, I will give it all I have.”

Wawrinka, who beat Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open final, was bidding to reach his fourth Grand Slam final and his second in Melbourne.

The two Swiss jockeyed in the opening games with Federer having three break points in Wawrinka’s second service game and Wawrinka getting two break points, but all were saved.

Wawrinka had another break point saved in the 11th game but he paid for a netted forehand in his next service game to drop the opening set in 50 minutes.

Wawrinka netted a backhand on break point in the sixth game of the second set and angrily smashed his smash in reaction, receiving a code violation warning from the chair umpire.

The match turned quickly for Wawrinka as Federer raced to a two sets lead after holding three set points.

Wawrinka left the court for a medical timeout and returned to the court with tape around his right knee.

But Wawrinka hit back with two breaks to take the third set in just 26 minutes as Federer became loose, giving his Swiss friend the chance to play his way back into the contest.

Wawrinka broke again in the opening game of the fourth set with a beautiful backhand return winner, but Federer broke straight back.

Wawrinka earned three break points in the ninth game with some splendid groundstrokes and on his third break point he rifled a forehand cross-court winner to break, and then served out for a fifth set.

But Wawrinka cracked with a poor service game and a double-fault on double break point gave Federer a crucial 4-2 advantage.

Federer held his two remaining service games to win on the first of his three match points.

Raonic’s bomb serve could explode Nadal bid

January 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal knows he must find a way to defuse the booming serve of Milos Raonic on Wednesday if he is to stay on course for a dream Australian Open final with Roger Federer.

Raonic

The chances of a ninth Grand Slam final between the old rivals have dramatically improved after the shock exits of top seeds Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic put the title up for grabs.

But 30-year-old Nadal, the 14-time Grand Slam champion, first has to get past third seed Raonic, the highest-ranked player still standing in the men’s quarter-finals.

The Canadian, yet to win his first major title, suffered heartbreak in last year’s Melbourne semi-finals when a groin injury put paid to his chances against Murray.

But he should pose Nadal his biggest problem yet in this year’s tournament, where the Spaniard is bidding to end a major title drought stretching back to the 2014 French Open.

The winner will face either Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov or Belgian David Goffin in the semi-final in the bottom half of the draw.

Nadal leads Raonic 6-2 in their meetings, but he lost to the power-server only this month, over three sets in the Brisbane International quarter-finals.

“He’s an opponent that makes you feel you’re playing with a lot of pressure all the time because his serve is huge and he’s playing very aggressive from the baseline,” Nadal said.

“So it’s going to be a very tough match and I need to be very focused with my serve and play aggressive. If I am not playing aggressive, then I am dead.”

Nadal has shown his trademark fighting qualities in reaching his first Slam quarter-final in 18 months after a series of injuries.

After overcoming top-rated German teenager Alexander Zverev over five sets in the third round, he also needed four sets to subdue flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils on Monday.

Raonic, who is working with Dutch Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek, has served 93 aces in the tournament so far, second only to 6ft 11ins (2.11m) Croatian Ivo Karlovic.

The Canadian, who has been suffering from ‘flu, cracked 33 aces in overcoming Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round after struggling early in the match.

Looking back on his recent win over Nadal in Brisbane, Raonic said: “We both tried to be the aggressors early on. I fought through a difficult moment midway through that second set.

“Then, I thought I had it pretty handily after that point. I broke towards the end of that second set. Broke right away in the third.

“Obviously it’s very within me to find those solutions again.”

Dimitrov, who will be playing in his third Grand Slam quarter-final, downed Goffin in their only meeting in the third round at the 2014 US Open.

The Bulgarian 15th seed lost to Nadal in the quarter-finals in Melbourne three years ago and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2014, where he lost to Djokovic.

“David is an excellent player. I know what to expect from him. We’ve practised against each other a few times this off-season,” Dimitrov said.

“He’s been serving really well and has served his way out of trouble. It’s one of his biggest weapons and he’s one of the greatest defenders out there.”

Goffin became the first Belgian man to reach the Australian Open quarter-finals when he knocked out eighth seed Dominic Thiem over four sets in intense heat.

“I’m feeling more confident against the top players. I’ve had a lot of matches before the tournament,” Goffin said.

Veterans Federer, Venus eye Aussie semis

January 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Age-defying Roger Federer and Venus Williams eye yet more Grand Slam glory Tuesday, but the veterans have tough tasks ahead to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.

Federer

Swiss great Federer’s chances of winning an 18th major title have been given a huge boost by the early exits of the top two seeds, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

But it won’t be plain sailing for the 35-year-old on the centre court evening match against old-school serve-volleyer Mischa Zverev, who stunned Murray in round four.

“Obviously he’s on a high right now. He’s feeling great. Probably feels the best he’s ever felt on a tennis court,” Federer said of the German world number 50.

“It’s going to be tough and different and tricky. That’s my mindset.

“Of course I’m the big favourite in this match, but I prefer to be the favourite. I did it for years and years. It makes me feel comfortable.”

The winner will face either 2014 champion Stan Wawrinka or former finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for a place in the final.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka has been quietly going about his business in Melbourne as the big names tumble, and will go in as favourite against the Frenchman.

“Tsonga has always been around the top 10. He was number five in the world. He made the final here. It’s going to be an interesting match,” Wawrinka said.

But first up on Rod Laver Arena will be Williams who, like Federer, shows no signs of slowing down.

She is angling to reach a 20th Grand Slam semi-final aged 36, with tricky Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on the other side of the net.

The pair have met five times before, with Williams, who is yet to drop a set in Melbourne, holding a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head.

“I have played her, I know what to expect,” said the American great, whose sister Serena is also in the last eight and plays on Wednesday.

“So I can almost already be settled in before I get to that match, so it’s a good thing.”

If she comes out on top, either American Coco Vandeweghe or French Open champion Garbine Muguruza will be waiting in the last four.

They come on court immediately after Williams and Pavlyuchenkova, with their head-to-head record standing at 1-1.

The unseeded Vandeweghe, who knocked out world number one Angelique Kerber in the fourth round, is confident she can keep her best ever run in Australia going.

“For me it depends on if I can match it, as well as if I can beat her to that punch of getting first strike, first play,” said the American.

Nadal confident he and Federer not finished yet

October 20, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Rafael Nadal insists he can still compete with the best in the world for “many years to come” after opening his tennis academy alongside Roger Federer in Mallorca on Wednesday.

Nadal

Nadal and Federer have slipped down the world rankings this season due to a lack of form and fitness respectively.

However, the 30-year-old Spaniard insists two of the most successful players in the history of the sport can make it back to the top.

“Roger and I haven’t forgotten how to play tennis and we are working to get back to competing at the highest level,” said Nadal.

Federer won’t play again this year due to ongoing rehabilitation on a knee injury, whilst Nadal refused to confirm if he intends to play again in 2016.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion suffered a shock second round defeat to Victor Troicki at the Shanghai Masters last week.

Yet, at sixth in the world rankings, Nadal is still well-placed to qualify for the end of season ATP Tour Finals.

“Sometimes continuing to play is not the solution. Sometimes the solution is to stop and restart a training programme,” he added.

However, Nadal also hinted he could return at the Swiss Indoor tournament in Basel next week.

The stunning academy complex in Nadal’s home city of Manacor in the Balearic Island boasts 26 clay courts, as well as a fitness centre, two swimming pools and 10 paddletennis courts.

“I still have many years to come in tennis, but there is a future and this academy is part of that future,” said Nadal.

“We were very excited to create something so special and even more so in Manacor, it is a dream come true.

“We hope the kids enjoy it as much as possible. We want this facility to be a success at the professional level for them, but also on a human level.”

Serena sails into US Open last eight as teen topples Radwanska

September 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Serena Williams broke through another barrier on Monday, her 308th Grand Slam match win taking her past Roger Federer for the most in major tournaments and into the quarter-finals of the US Open.

Serena

“Wow, it’s really exciting,” Williams said of moving out of a tie with Swiss great Federer for most Grand Slam match wins.

“This is where it all started so it’s always so magical out here for me — 308 sounds pretty good.”

As Williams, never seriously challenged in a 6-2, 6-3 victory over 52nd-ranked Yaroslava Shvedova, sailed on, one of the two players with a chance to topple her from the world number one spot in this tournament bowed out as fourth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanskawas shocked by 18-year-old Croatian Ana Konjuh.

The 6-4, 6-4 triumph avenged a bitter disappointment for Konjuh, who held three match points against Radwanska in the second round at Wimbledon before falling 9-7 in the third round after stepping on a ball and turning her ankle.

“She’s an incredible player and I’m just happy to have the opportunity to play her again,” Konjuh said. “This time I got the revenge.”

The teenager showed remarkable poise throughout the match that closed out the night session on the cavernous Arthur Ashe stadium.

Even when the public address system blared out accidentally as she prepared to serve early in the final game she wasn’t rattled.

“I just said to myself stay in the game don’t rush,” Konjuh said. “I remember at Wimbledon I had match points there and I thought I’m not going to do that here. I’m not going to let that opportunity go.”

With Radwanska out of the picture, second-seeded German Angelique Kerber is now the only player with a chance to end Williams’s 186-week reign atop the rankings.

Kerber will try to take the next step on Tuesday in a quarter-final clash with 2015 finalistRoberta Vinci, the seventh seed from Italy.

Former world number one Caroline Wozniacki and Latvian Anastasija Sevastova will also battle for a semi-final berth on Tuesday.

Kerber’s run to the quarters means the American must at least reach the final to stay top for a 187th consecutive which would, of course, be a record.

If both Kerber and Serena make the championship match, the American will have to win to extend her reign.

Williams will have a day off before tackling Simona Halep after the fifth-seeded Romanian’s 6-2, 7-5 victory over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.

Despite injury fears sparked by the sore shoulder that hampered her at the Rio Olympics Williams has barely been challenged since arriving at Flushing Meadows, where she claimed the first of her six US Open titles in 1999.

She has reached the business end of the tournament without dropping a set or indeed even dropping her serve. She has faced just one break point in four matches.

A seventh US Open title would take her past the record she shares with Chris Evert, and would also break the Open Era record she shares with Steffi Graf of 22 Grand Slam crowns.

Halep, beaten in seven of eight prior encounters with Williams, was already bracing for the challenge.

“She’s like the best player in the world. I don’t have to be afraid or to have emotions because I have nothing to lose,” Halep said. “It’s just a huge challenge for me.”

The tantalizing prospect of a semi-final clash between Williams and her sister Venus evaporated as the elder Williams fell to hard-hitting Czech Karolina Pliskova 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).

Venus was unable to convert her lone match point as Pliskova, serving at 5-4 in the third, saved herself with a forehand volley then held to extend the match.

With another break under her belt Pliskova had a chance to close it out at 6-5, but after surging to a 40-0 lead she lost five straight points as Venus forced the decider.

“In the breaker, I went for a little bit more, but I didn’t put the ball in enough,” said the 36-year-old American, whose seven Grand Slam titles include two US Opens.

“I went for some aggressive shots, didn’t necessarily put them in.”

In her first Grand Slam quarter-final, Pliskova will take on Konjuh. Despite her entrenched position in the top 20 the Czech had never made it past the third round in a major in 17 prior tries.

Konjuh, in contrast, has made the quarters for the first time in her ninth Grand Slam.

Federer plans January return in Australia

August 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer, who is sidelined for the rest of the year, said on Wednesday he plans to return to competition in Australia in January at the Hopman Cup and the Australian Open.

Federer

The record 17-times grand slam singles winner announced last month that he would be missing the Rio Olympics, the U.S. Open and the remainder of the 2016 schedule in order to properly recover after having knee surgery earlier this year.

The Swiss world number four said he was taking a positive outlook.

“I don’t see it as the end of something. I see it as a beginning to something I’m working for, and when I come back to the Hopman Cup and then to the Australian Open … that’s what I’m working for now,” said the 35-year-old Federer.

Federer was speaking at a news conference where it was announced that he and Rafa Nadal were committing to play for Team Europe in the inaugural Laver Cup matches next year against a rest of the world team in Prague on Sept. 22-24.

“I’m doing well and I’ve been training as much as I possibly could to restrengthen my quad and my body to keep it in shape,” said Federer, who had surgery on his left knee in February.

“So when I head back into the gym for full on fitness in the next couple of months, then I’m ready for it. I just hope to be super strong when I come back in January.”

Federer to miss Olympics and rest of season with knee problem

July 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer has pulled out of the Rio Olympics and will miss the rest of the season, including the U.S. Open, because he needs “more extensive rehabilitation” to prolong his career after knee surgery earlier this year.

Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon, England - 8/7/16 Switzerland's Roger Federer reacts during his match against Canada's Milos Raonic REUTERS/Clive Brunskill/Pool

Last month he described how “one stupid move” sparked a chain of bad luck – which resulted in left knee surgery in February and sitting out the French Open with a back injury – culminating in Tuesday’s decision to end his wretched season.

“I’m extremely disappointed to announce that I will not be able to represent Switzerland at the Olympic Games in Rio and that I will also miss the remainder of the season,” the 17-times grand slam champion said on his Facebook page.

“Considering all options after consulting with my doctors and my team, I have made the very difficult decision to call an end to my 2016 season as I need more extensive rehabilitation following my knee surgery earlier this year.

“The doctors advised that if I want to play on the ATP World Tour injury free for another few years, as I intend to do, I must give both my knee and body the proper time to fully recover. It is tough to miss the rest of the year.”

For much of his career, the former world number one had been blessed with a body that seemed bullet-proof against the aches, pains and injuries suffered by most top athletes.

But one false move by the man known for his gliding footwork, while running a bath for his twin daughters following his Australian Open semi-final loss, means he would have gone a whole season without a title for the first time since 2000.

Now aged 34, Tuesday’s announcement also probably ended the 2012 silver medallist’s hopes of ever winning an Olympic singles title.

“The silver lining is that this experience has made me realise how lucky I have been throughout my career with very few injuries,” said Federer, who won an Olympic doubles gold with Stan Wawrinka in 2008.

“The love I have for tennis, the competition, tournaments and… the fans remains intact. I am as motivated as ever and plan to put all my energy towards coming back strong, healthy and in shape to play attacking tennis in 2017.”

Until May this year, Federer had appeared in 65 successive grand slam tournaments and the last time he was absent from one of the four majors was at the 1999 U.S. Open.

When he reached the last four at Wimbledon, which included winning a five-set thriller in the quarter-finals against Marin Cilic, it appeared as if Federer’s injury woes were finally behind him and his absence from the French Open was a one off.

However, he was clearly rattled when he landed heavily on his left knee after rolling his ankle during the fifth set of his semi-final defeat by Candaian Milos Raonic at Wimbledon.

Although Federer, who was left sprawled face down on the turf following the fall, got up to complete the match, he was worried about the long term effects on his knee.

“I just hope with the slip I had in the fifth, I’m going to be fine… I hope I didn’t hurt myself,” the world number three said at the time.

“Is it (the pain) a three-day thing, is it a 24-hour thing or is it more? I don’t know at this point.

“With the body that’s been playing up this year, I just hope I’m going to be fine.”

It seems his worst fears were realised on Tuesday as he called time on his season after appearing in only seven tournaments and with a 21-7 win-loss record.

Federer to open 20th pro season at Hopman Cup

July 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Roger Federer will kick off his 20th season as a professional at the Hopman Cup next year, returning to the international team tournament in Perth for the first time since he teamed up with his now wife Mirka in 2002.

Federer

The 34-year-old Swiss will be partnered at the Perth Arena from Jan. 1-7 by compatriot Belinda Bencic, who was a year old when Federer turned professional in July, 1998.

“I do remember it was a good preparation way back when so I thought it would be nice to do it again,” the 17-times grand slam champion, a Hopman Cup winner with Martina Hingis in 2001, said in a video release.

“I can’t wait to come back because I think it will be the perfect way to start the new season.”

Federer and the then Miroslava Vavrinec lost two of their three group matches at the 2002 Hopman Cup, which was won by Tommy Robredo and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario for Spain.

Earlier this year, Nick Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova teamed up to give Australia their first Hopman Cup triumph since 1999.

Raonic stuns Federer in five sets to make Wimbledon final

July 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Milos Raonic became the first Canadian man to reach a Grand Slam final at Wimbledon on Friday when he stunned punch drunk seven-time champion Roger Federer in a titanic five-set struggle.

Milos Raonic

Sixth seed Raonic triumphed 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 and goes on to face second seed Andy Murray, the 2013 champion, or 10th-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych It was 25-year-old Raonic’s first win on grass against a top 10 opponent and shattered Federer’s hopes of going on to claim a record eighth All England Club crown and 18th major.

“There was a little opening and I took it,” said Raonic who looked down and out in the fourth set.”

“It’s a big impact for Canada. Hopefully, it will be even bigger if I win on Sunday.”

After weathering an early storm, Federer had been in complete control of the semi-final, his 10th at the tournament, until the tie turned suddenly and dramatically in the fourth set.

The 34-year-old, bidding to become the oldest finalist in 42 years, squandered three break points in the set and slipped from 40-0 up on serve in the 12th game.

Federer, whose last Grand Slam crown came at Wimbledon in 2012, had already required five sets to get past Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals, saving three match points in the process.

And the effort took its toll on the 17-time major winner in the decider where he needed treatment on his right thigh and jarred his left knee and foot in a worrying fall.

Raonic, nine years his junior, pounced for a 3-1 lead while Federer had to save two more break points in the sixth game.

The Canadian held hs nerve and claimed victory when Federer went wide with a weary forehand which condemned the Swiss star to his first loss in a Wimbledon semi-final.

Raonic finished with 23 aces and 75 winners while Federer converted just one of nine break points.

Raonic, playing in his second Wimbledon semi-final after losing to Federer at the same stage two years ago, came out blasting from the start.

He carved out and converted the only break point of the first set for a 3-1 lead before unleashing the fastest serve of the tournament of 144mph (231.7km/h) in the fifth game.

Federer squandered four set points in the 10th game of the second set, the last of which off a sloppy backhand.

But the veteran wasn’t to be denied when Raonic left the door open again in the tiebreaker with his sixth double fault of the tie.

The Swiss soon went to another three set points and this time he pounced, levelling the match when a Raonic backhand stab drifted wide.

Federer broke for the first time in the semi-final for a 4-3 lead in the third set as Raonic suffered a sudden loss of momentum, backing it up with a service game to love.

His seventh ace of the contest sealed the set in the 10th game.

With his coach John McEnroe commentating for British television, Raonic had to save two break points in the fifth game and another in the ninth of the fourth set.

However, in a remarkable 12th game, Federer was pegged back from 40-0 after serving up back-to-back double faults and Raonic levelled the semi-final on a third set point when the Swiss meekly teed-up an opportunity for the Canadian to pass him.

Federer then required treatment on his right thigh in the changeover.

The fatigued legend saved a break point at 1-2 in the decider but only after jarring his left foot and knee in an awkward fall.

A breathtaking close-up rally at the net went in the Canadian’s favour and he broke for 3-1 in what proved to be the crucial breakthrough.

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